Students First candidates allege hackings of personal Facebook accounts

Even though the results of the 2017 Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) general election were released three weeks ago, some of the candidates have still not been finalized yet.

Recount results

Since the voting period ended on Feb. 11, three recounts were held, with results being released on Feb. 16. While Jeffry Colin had originally won the position of vice-president of university affairs, his opponent, Axel Ngamije Gaga won the recount by a margin of 155 votes.

According to Tristan Lamonica, a representative from the Faculty of Arts, the original count was due to a broken ballot-counting machine, which led to the votes being counted by hand.

Lamonica said that as the votes were counted at 5 a.m. on Feb. 11, someone from the elections office had added the votes incorrectly due to fatigue, which led to the original result.

“We have done four total recounts for the position of vice-president of university affairs,” Lamonica told the Fulcrum. “The second, third, and fourth were almost identical counts, keeping in mind we had different scrutineers and staff to ensure that there were no mistakes.”

Caroline Lu, Michel Antoun, and Yawen Chen were elected to the Board of Administration (BOA) for the Faculty of Science, as these ballots were not counted until after the appeal by candidate Jeremy Russell on Feb. 13.

While the ratification of the results were scheduled to take place at the Feb. 26 Board of Administration (BOA) meeting, an appeal by the chief electoral officer, Qussai Abu-Naqoos, led to the disqualification of three elected board candidates—David Gallo, Davis Schwartz, and Jordan Kent.

Due to these disqualifications and consequent appointments of other candidates in the election, the ratification of results will take place at a subsequent board meeting.

Attempted hacking of Students First accounts

On Feb. 24, the Fulcrum received an email from Justin Patrick, a volunteer on the Students First slate, saying that four of their candidates and volunteers were subject to attempted hacks of their Facebook accounts and one attempted hack of an email account.

It is unclear as of yet if any more were hacked, or if more hacking attempts will happen in the future,” Patrick wrote in the email.

The students targeted by the attempted hacking have chosen to remain anonymous, with the exception of BOA candidate Jordan Kent.

On March 1, the Fulcrum learned that following a technical error in Facebook’s system, a widespread lockout of accounts took place. This information came from a public statement by a Facebook spokesperson.

Campaign expenditures audit

Over the week of Feb. 13–17, members of the board exchanged emails with Tanner Tallon, the comptroller general for the SFUO.

In the exchange, Tallon advocated for an audit of expenditures by members of the United slate during the campaign period.

However, members of the board raised concerns about a possible conflict of interest involved with this audit, as Tallon was also an independent candidate for the position of vice-president finance during the election.

The possibility of this conflict of interest was also emphasized by the board at a Feb. 13 meeting where Tallon brought forward an appeal to have Rizki Rachiq, the current vice-president finance, removed from the position for the 2017–18 year following his re-election.

In an email to the board, excluding Tallon, Rachiq wrote, “(Tallon) ran in this election and you need to understand that the outcome of the report is biased.”

Rachiq then quoted the Auditor Conflicts of Interest (Chartered Financial Analyst Institute), writing, “Auditors must disclose any current or potential conflicts of interest regarding their role as an auditor for a company. Such disclosures should include any non-audit services provided and the fees received for such services, as well as any forward agreements entered into before the audit opinion is issued.”

Rachiq then brought up that, due to this conflict of interest, Tallon would appoint his own external auditor, but said that Tallon’s selection of the external auditor would still lead to a conflict of interest.

“As mentioned in the email thread the comptroller general who is subject to conflict of interest tried to diminish this aspect by stating that they have asked Marley, an auditor from SAFA, to help conduct this audit. However how could someone who is in clear conflict of interest appoint the external auditor?” wrote Rachiq.

In a March 1 email statement to the Fulcrum, Tallon wrote that the audit was originally proposed by a member of the board for expenditures by all candidates, not just those from the United slate.

Tallon also wrote that he “disclosed (his) conflict of interest as required by CFAI standards” in his first email to the board, and that external audtor Marley Langman was suggested by Tallon and approved by SFUO president Roméo Ahimakn.

“(Langman) would accompany me for the entire audit, not just my candidate expenses, in order to address the conflict of interest and ensure the integrity of the audit,” Tallon wrote.

A special board meeting was held on Thursday, Feb. 23 to discuss the possible audit. Ultimately, the board voted against moving the audit to an external, “not to stop the audit altogether,” Tallon wrote.

The next Board of Administration meeting will take place on Sunday, March 5 at 1 p.m. in TBT 083. The ratification of results will take place on Thursday, March 9 or Sunday, March 12, pending a vote by the board.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the board voted against an audit altogether on Feb. 23, though in his statement to the Fulcrum, Tallon wrote that the board voted against the use of an external firm. The article has been updated to reflect this change.