Board highlights ballot count change, CEO pay raise, CRO constitutionality
On Jan. 26, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) held their third Board of Administration (BOA) meeting of the month, where Faculty of Social Sciences representative Tony Bui raised some “serious concerns” about the upcoming general election.
Counting of ballots
Bui started listing out his concerns by saying that while he was absent at several BOA meetings and was “not as involved” with the elections committee which he formerly sat on (having resigned on Jan. 11), he was not made aware of several issues surrounding the election.
One of Bui’s concerns surrounded the change to the counting system for ballots this year. While in previous years all ballots were counted at the end of the final day of voting, this year ballots will be counted at the end of each voting day.
According to Bui, this new system “raises serious ethical concerns” that the ballot box will be opened daily and then resealed after ballots are counted.
Though he said he “trusts the process,” Bui, who discussed his other experience in politics, said he has “never encountered a situation where ballots are counted over a series of days.”
A proxy student for the Faculty of Engineering seat also said that “any sign of tampering (with the ballot box) cannot be detected” under this new counting method.
To help deter issues of tampering, vice-president of finance Rizki Rachiq suggested that the elections office should invite members of the elections committee to sit in on the ballot counting.
CEO pay raise
Bui’s second concern involved an increase in the salary of the chief electoral officer (CEO). According to Bui, the CEO’s salary increased 60 per cent from last year.
Rachiq clarified that the increase in the CEO’s salary came after recommendations from the previous CEO. However, Rachiq denied that the CEO’s salary increased by 60 per cent.
“I’m trying to save money as much as I can,” said Rachiq, highlighting that due to the increase in the CEO’s salary, the chief returning officer (CRO) is not being paid this year.
The CRO position is currently filled by the SFUO’s vice-president of university affairs, Vanessa Dorimain.
Constitutionality of current CRO
Dorimain’s current occupation of the CRO position was Bui’s third concern surrounding the election since, according to the SFUO constitution, no one on the SFUO executive or board can be hired for the position.
Because of this conflict of interest, Bui moved for Dorimain to be removed from the position of CRO.
“I understand the resolution but I don’t see the solution,” said Rachiq, noting that due to the lack of time before the election, and because Dorimain is currently not receiving a salary for her work as the CRO, it would be difficult to find a replacement.
Rachiq also noted that there were no issues brought forward while Dorimain served as the CRO during the fall by-election.
Bui recognized that it will be “an incredible burden” to hire someone in Dorimain’s place, but stated that the constitution should not be violated.
However, Dorimain responded that she is not officially employed by the election’s office and that she is simply doing the work for free, “out of the capacity as an exec.”
Jordan Kent, a first-year political science and history student at the U of O, said that Dorimain filling the position of CRO could lead to a “workplace conflict of interest,” as some members of the executive are rerunning for a position in the election.
SFUO president Roméo Ahimakin then chimed in, saying that the decision for Dorimain to be the CRO for this year was not made by the board.
The decision for Dorimain to fill the position of CRO was made by the elections committee and presented to the board. However, this decision was never officially ratified.
Ahimakin conceded that while Dorimain is not being paid for her work, the CEO’s pay raise would mean that the federation might not be saving money after all.
“We want to make sure students see perfect transparency in this election,” said Ahimakin.
He went on to say that an email was sent to Dorimain on Oct. 21 about the unconstitutionality of her filling in as CRO, but no efforts were made to hire someone else. Hiring the CRO is a responsibility of the elections office.
Following this, Dorimain told Ahimakin, “This is a test of my fucking character!” and left the room shortly afterwards.
The board then entered a 10 minute recess.
Following the recess, the board moved into a vote on removing Dorimain as the CRO. Ultimately, the board voted against removing Dorimain from the position.
General assembly motions
Aside from Bui’s concerns over the upcoming election, the board also discussed several motions which failed to pass at the Nov. 12 general assembly (GA).
The motion for electoral reform to a single transferable vote was referred to the elections committee, while the motion to create a vice-president of student life was referred to the constitutional committee.
The motion for the creation of a student court did not carry.
All items on the agenda were referred to a later date.
The next SFUO BOA meeting will take place on Feb. 5 at 1 p.m. in TBT 083. Meetings are open to the public.