Joint Elections Committee investigation underway in SA elections

ARTHUR PESCAN//


The Joint Elections Committee (JEC) of the George Washington University has confirmed that a public violation hearing has been tentatively set for Friday evening [March 31] at 5:30 PM, with the location still to be determined. This comes as the latest development in the JEC investigation into numerous unconfirmed allegations against Student Association presidential candidate Lande Watson’s campaign. The allegations come from Watson’s opponent, Cole Ettingoff, and members of his campaign team.

“The violation hearing has been tentatively set for 5:30 PM this Friday,” according to a comment from the JEC.

The confirmation of a public violation hearing follows an initial probable cause hearing held by the JEC Monday [March 27], in which the committee and Chief Investigator Hannah Bloom determined that probable cause did exist in the allegations made by the Ettingoff campaign. According to a comment from the JEC, “Lande [Watson] was notified of her indictment within an hour of us finding probable cause on Monday.”

Monday’s probable cause hearing was followed by a vote Tuesday [March 28] by the JEC to postpone the Student Association elections from March 29 and 30, to April 5 and 6. This decision was announced to the public through the JEC website Tuesday evening, citing the need to “investigate complaints with the due diligence and consideration they require.”

Friday’s violation hearing will decide the validity of the seven complaints made against Ms. Watson’s campaign for which the JEC determined probable cause exists. These complaints are currently listed on the official JEC website for public access. WRGW accessed the complaints in their original form before they were redacted and reposted online to protect the privacy of individuals named in the complaints. We are not posting those forms out of respect for the privacy of those named.

In the seven complaints, members of the Ettingoff campaign allege that members of the Watson campaign violated numerous campaign rules under the JEC charter. The allegations made by the Ettingoff campaign mainly cover violations in rules 652, 656, and 657 of the charter, pertaining to false statements, tampering of witnesses and parties involved, and failure to comply with the Code of Student Conduct, respectively.

Under the rules of the JEC charter, the JEC will rule at the public violation hearing on each individual violation based on the findings of the Chief Investigator and according to a preponderance of the evidence. Following such rulings, the JEC will determine the ability of the indicted candidate to stand in the ongoing election based on a penalty system.

The violations of Rules 652, 656, and 657 of the JEC charter for which the complaints allege of Ms. Watson’s campaign currently hold weights of one to six penalties per count found in violation. Under the JEC charter, “Any candidate who accumulates six or more penalties during a given election period shall be disqualified.”

If the JEC does find in favor of disqualification of Watson at the violation hearing, Watson’s campaign will have the ability to appeal such decision to the GW Student Court, which under rules of the JEC charter “shall exercise final jurisdiction over all appeals of decisions of the Committee.”

When pressed for official comment on the ongoing developments in the JEC investigation, including Friday’s scheduled violation hearing, the Ettingoff campaign stated, “Bullying, harassment, and stalking cannot be tolerated.” This comment mirrors the official statement released by the Ettingoff campaign via Facebook Tuesday evening in which Ettingoff defended the JEC decision to postpone the SA elections.

The Watson campaign has yet to respond to requests for comments on the ongoing investigation and the scheduled violation hearing. An official campaign statement was released Tuesday evening on the decision to postpone the SA elections via the Facebook page, Lande Watson for GW SA President, in which Watson characterized the allegations as “baseless accusations.”

Though Friday’s violation hearing is required to be public under Rule 665 of the JEC Charter, the Committee has stated that they “will not be publicizing the event.” WRGW will continue to provide updates to the public on any further developments, including concurrent findings of the JEC, as well as information regarding the date, time, and location of the violation hearing.

Robyn Di Giacinto, Nicholas Messina, and Emma Shindell contributed to reporting.

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