By Melissa Prentice
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The approval of the ASUA president's nominee for the elections commission was delayed after another candidate suggested the selection process was unfair because of procedural conflicts.
T.J. Trujillo, Associated Students of the University of Arizona president, appointed Mike Harter, a finance senior, as the new ASUA elections commissioner, after Claudia Davilla resigned from the position. The elections commissioner is in charge of coordinating ASUA's spring elections.
At Tuesday's Senate meeting, Vicqui Tinajero Ä another applicant for the position Ä asked the Senate to delay voting on Harter's approval. She said she thinks the selection process was unfair and that she is a more qualified candidate. She asked for a week to present her case to the Senators.
The only official requirement for the job is to be a student with a grade point average of 2.0 or higher.
Trujillo told the Senate delaying the process would not change his nomination.
"Mike Harter is my nominee this week and he will be my nominee next week and the week after," he said. "If you trust my judgement you will not need to delay this."
Harter said he was involved in an "external aspect" of last year's election, which candidate Jason Wong protested. Harter was vice president of Interfraternity Council, which endorsed Trujillo and other candidates along with the Panhellenic Association.
IFC and Panhellenic rented vans to drive students from Greek houses to polling areas and distributed fliers that said Wong voted
in favor of excluding Greek chapters from receiving ASUA money because he felt the funding "would be the same as helping the KKK and other racist organizations."
Harter said his personal views would "absolutely not" interfere with his job as elections commissioner.
Tinajero plans to reiterate her fairness concerns to the Central Coordinating Council, after Senate President Brad Mulligan discovered Wednesday night that an appointment of an elections commissioner is a minor appointment and only needs to be approved by the Central Coordinating Council, and not both legislative bodies.
However, before the Senate realized that they need not be involved, they voted 5-3 to postpone voting on the issue until Wednesday.
Several senators said they made the decision not because of Tinajero's allegations that the process was unfair, but because they did not receive Harter's application until during the meeting and thought they could not make an informed decision about Harter's qualifications.
"I think it would be the most beneficial decision for ASUA to postpone the decision for a week rather than for us to make an uninformed decision," said Sen. Ethan Orr, at the Tuesday meeting.
"Whether I think the decision (to only require the CCC to approve the issue) is fair or not is irrelevant. They'll do whatever they want," Tinajero said. "They'll try every political game in the book.
"I am no longer after the position of elections commissioner," she said. "I just wanted to let the Senate know what had happened so they can change the (ASUA) Constitution to keep this from happening in the future."
She also said she thinks the process was unfair from the beginning because ASUA did not publicize that the position was available, and the applications were only available to students who had heard about the position by "word of mouth."
She also said she was only interviewed by two members of the four-member selection panel, Trujillo and Milligan. She said she later had a separate interview with GPSC member Alex Sugiyama, but never met Berry Melfy, Trujillo's chief of staff, who was also involved in the decision process.
Trujillo said he asked Melfy to question Harter during the interview because he "knew Harter on a personal level."
However, Melfy was not involved in the interview of third candidate Rhett Trujillo either, T.J. Trujillo said.
However, T.J. Trujillo made the final selection from the nominees.
Tinajero said a member of the interview panel, whom she would not identify, told her that a deciding factor in the panel's decision was the applicants' answers to one question about what the applicant would do in a contested election like last year's presidential election.
Last year Wong, a presidential candidate, asked for a run-off election because he felt that he was unfairly required to be a write-in candidate.
Tinajero claimed that Harter's answer (which she said she was also told by members of the selection process), that he would consult with the president, was "wrong" according to the ASUA Elections Code, which she said states that the elections commissioner is autonomous from the president.
Trujillo said his recommendation was not based only on the applicants' answers to the one question, but on several considerations including campus involvement, organization, creativity in solving existing problems with the election code, the ability to motivate volunteers and the ability to adapt to unexpected problems and situations.
Trujillo said he disagreed that there was a "wrong" answer to the question. "Many aspects of the election code deal with right and wrong answers, but this question dealt with grey areas and was up to interpretation," he said.
The ASUA Constitution does not state whether or not the elections commissioner is independent of the president.
Sen. Ethan Orr said the ASUA Supreme Court may be asked to decide on the issue.
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