Cal State Fullerton Associated Students may need to redo its presidential elections if the two disqualified candidates, Celine Moubayed and Colin Eacobellis, decide to appeal the outcome of ASI’s Elections Judicial Council (EJC) meetings.
The council failed to post agendas and hold its meetings openly, violating the Gloria Romero Open Meetings Act, a California law regulating student governing bodies. As a result, the candidates will have an opportunity to appeal the decision in an upcoming meeting that will ratify the decisions of the illegal meetings.
“The thought was that these were conduct hearings, much like you might see in student judicial conduct,” said Dave Edwards, executive director of Associated Students. “In hindsight, it’s clear now that they should have been open meetings.”
Edwards said it was the first time the EJC held complaint hearings during an Associated Students election since its conception just before the spring 2017 election.
During the eight closed meetings, the council heard a total of 60 complaints against all three candidate teams, with each team receiving at least one complaint.
Moubayed and Eacobellis, who were disqualified by the council on March 14 for sending campaign emails considered spam, said they still feel they have been wronged by the actions of the council and are seeking help from the administration. They said they are in contact with Berenecea Johnson Eanes, vice president of student affairs, to discuss their treatment during the election.
“As of now, we’re just kind of up in the air on what the next steps are,” Eacobellis said.
After the Daily Titan reported the open meeting violations, the Associated Students Board of Directors, following advice from its legal counsel, decided to hold a new council meeting to review all 60 complaints in an open session.
In an April 10 press release, Associated Students said the meetings will be reheld to ratify the actions previously taken at EJC meetings that did not comply with the Gloria Romero Open Meetings Act.
“I think what should be required is more than just an ‘OK put the agenda up, go into the room, and revote to disqualify because that tells the constituency nothing about whether the action was properly taken or somehow political and improper,” said Terry Francke, general counsel for Californians Aware, an organization dedicated to compliance with open meeting laws.
The Gloria Romero Open Meetings Act does not outline punishments for student government bodies that violate the law, only individuals who could be found guilty of a misdemeanor if they knowingly attend a meeting in violation of the act.
The EJC has yet to schedule the public meeting. Students who filed complaints, the candidates and anyone interested in attending the open meeting will be invited, Edwards said.
Eanes said this is not the first time Associated Students’ meetings have been questioned. She also said that in her six years at CSUF, no meetings or decisions have been overturned.
“I’m actually very hopeful that everybody learns something,” Eanes said. “That’s why it’s a university, we’re all here to learn.”
Francke said Moubayed and Eacobellis appealing the decision would be the only approach that would make a difference going forward.
“It sounds like that (reholding the elections) is what should be done, unless the people who were prejudiced by this disqualification decide it’s not worth it,” Francke said.
After learning more about their options, Moubayed and Eacobellis said they will attend the meeting and decide whether to appeal to the board of directors for a re-election.
“We’re excited to see what happens next, that’s for sure,” Moubayed said.
Amy Wells contributed to this report.