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Board members, staff raised concerns over officers’ previous work as UOSU co-founders, according to resignation letter

Less than a week before the campaign period for the University of Ottawa Students’ Union’s (UOSU) general elections is set to begin, both the chief electoral officer (CEO) and the bilingual elections officer have resigned, citing circulating concerns from board members and employees over their former work as co-founders of the union. 

“It has come to our attention that concerns have been circulating among members of the board and employees about our hiring, without these concerns ever being officially conveyed to us,” wrote CEO Tiyana Maharaj and bilingual elections officer Francesco MacAllister-Caruso in a letter sent to the UOSU’s Board of Directors (BOD) on Tuesday.

Maharaj and MacAllister-Caruso were among the team that spearheaded the development of the UOSU in the 2018-19 academic year after the administration terminated its agreement with the school’s former undergraduate union, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), in the wake of fraud allegations against student leaders

In their termination decision, the administration also cited allegations of improper governance, mismanagement, internal conflict and workplace misconduct in the SFUO. 

Maharaj and MacAllister-Caruso finished their work with the union at the end of May 2019 after the current executive committee was elected and put in place. They did not run for executive positions. 

In their letter, they wrote that they are using this opportunity to clarify the hiring process and to offer suggestions to the union to ensure that this issue doesn’t occur in the future.

“We are saddened to leave our positions just as the campaign period is set to begin next Monday, but we felt it to be the only appropriate measure moving forward to ensure the integrity of the electoral process and to retain the confidence of the board,” Maharaj and MacAllister-Caruso wrote. 

The two wrote in their letter that they were contacted by the union’s election committee on Feb. 25, the day after nominations period had ended and days before the original all-candidates meeting was scheduled for, to take on the jobs after the formerly-appointed CEO was let go. 

“There was an incredible amount of work that needed to be done to ensure that these general elections went as smoothly as possible,” the two wrote in their letter, highlighting the need to revise and shift the electoral timeline, book rooms and equipment for upcoming debates, develop promotional material, and hold bilingual language testing for executive candidates. 

“Due to these pressing issues and our expertise in running elections, we agreed to work for the elections office, supervised by the elections committee that hired us, to ensure the UOSU’s general elections could take place without issue,” the letter reads. 

The two then offered four recommendations that the BOD and elections committee implement to help refine the electoral process: 

  • Have a CEO in place year-round who is able to work on both the fall byelections and the winter general elections. This will avoid any issue of breaks in employment and will ensure that we do not face a situation similar to the current one.
  • A timeline should not be established nor published without a CEO in place to ensure that they can effectively secure resources in a timely manner.
  • Bring electoral concerns or questions directly to the elections office staff. A good CEO must be attentive to the worries of the union’s membership and should know how to respond, but can only do so if concerns are brought to them directly.
  • Hire a candidate with considerable experience to hold the position of CEO. Elections for over 36,000 members should be run by a person or team of people who are experienced and knowledgeable about the job required of them.

“We want to ensure that members can have complete faith and trust in the electoral process, without worrying of any conflict of interests, be it real or perceived,” the letter reads.

Maharaj and MacAllister-Caruso say they are open to help train new staff that are hired to fill the vacancies in the elections office.

“We remain attentive to the concerns and needs of students and look forward to supporting the UOSU in whatever way the board requests,” the two wrote. “We want nothing more than to see the UOSU continue to succeed and offer students the services they need, as it has done in the past year.”

The Fulcrum has reached out to the UOSU’s elections committee for comment. This article will be updated as more information becomes available.