Student Government member Taj Dahshan acknowledges a technicality error in his election

Pro-Tempore Taj Dahshan announced his election did not follow legislative statutes, members admit the statutes need to be reformed.

Photo+by+Alex+Liscio+

Photo by Alex Liscio

Gillian Manning, Copy Desk Chief

Editors note: We modified the headline and the first paragraph of this story for clarification purposes. 

Student Government members are reviewing statutes for simple mistakes, such as grammar, as well as vague language that may lead to misunderstandings. One member realized a technical error in his election while reviewing the statutes.

House of Representatives Pro-Tempore Taj Dahshan announced in a Feb. 12 meeting that his “appointment did not technically follow the statutes.”

The term “statutes” refers to written laws that have been passed by a legislative body. Student Government personnel are bound to a series of agreed-upon statutes that help guide elections, campaigns, and more.

The statutes state that the speaker of the House must conduct interviews with the pro-tempore candidates. In the weekly meeting after the House elects the speaker, the House is supposed to hold a majority vote to elect the pro-tempore. 

Instead, the House elected Dahshan on the same day as the speaker, meaning he skipped the week-long gap and interviews. The specific day of the election is unclear.

Members elected Dahshan during the Fall 2020 semester, defeating the only other candidate, Gahmliel  “Benny” Artison who was a freshman and new to Student Government at the time and thus ineligible for the position. 

Student Government advisor Don Vanpelt Jr. claims elections have not been conducted as stated in the statutes for a few years now because there has not been more than two candidates.

“Anytime the speaker has two or less candidates running for office, they bypass the interview as it is not needed,” he said. This exception to the rule is not listed within the statutes.

Bridgers explained that the election procedure may not have been appropriately followed because of “tradition” but also cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason to have sped up the process.

“It was still a fair election process,” he said. “Under normal circumstances, the statutes would have been followed.” 

But Joshua Rutledge, Speaker of the Boca Raton House of Representatives, disagreed with Dahshan’s statement that the election was improper. “His election was completely by the book,” said. “I don’t really think there was a problem.”

Chief Justice Kevin Lopez and Vanpelt Jr. approved the informal change in process, according to Parliamentarian Reilly Bridgers and Vanpelt Jr.

Dahshan noticed the mistake in the election process during the previous winter break while reviewing statutes, which is a process the Rules and Policies Committee began over the break in order to identify any mistakes or vague language. 

“I think that it is important for the rules to apply to every person. So if anyone wanted to pursue action against me I would encourage it,” said Dahshan.

Any student can submit a contestation, or complaint tied to misconduct or statute violations, by submitting a form before noon the day after an election to the Election Board and a Student Government advisor. 

The Board of Elections would meet the Monday following the contestation to review the complaint(s) and all of the evidence. The board conducts a hearing and chooses the consequence if a party is found responsible for a violation. To date, no one from the House has contested Dahshan’s election or decided to take any further action.

Such a process resulted in the removal of former Boca Raton House of Representatives Pro-Tempore Jerry Lazarre last spring. Statutes disallowed his use of the Student Government logo in a campaign pamphlet that was passed amongst the House prior to the election.

The contestation process began when Stephan Schneider, an FAU student and paralegal at the time, noticed and reported Lazarre’s misconduct. “I can’t believe that someone actually had a problem with it,” Rutledge said. “I didn’t even know that was a rule until later.”

Members of the Rules and Policies Committee have begun reviewing legislation in response to members’ confusion regarding past statutes.

“This is why we’re prioritizing statutory reform,” said Bridgers.

 

Gillian Manning is the Copy Desk Chief for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, tweet her @gillianmanning_ or email [email protected].