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SGA campaign marred by removed signs

By Elizabeth Saulsbury
On April 16, 2014

The ETSU Student Government Association Election Commission has ruled that evidence connecting a ticket with two students who removed the opposing ticket's signs is inconclusive. 

The election commission met to determine if there was enough evidence to connect the Kevin Carlson, Alicyn York and Ben Schaller ticket with the individuals responsible for removing the campaign materials of the Doretha Benn, Zack Sholes and Taylor Dunn ticket.

According to a police report, charges are pending for two students who were observed removing signs by the Department of Public Safety April 11. 

One of the students told Public Safety Officer Rodney Williams that the person who "put her up to it" was Ben Schaller, who is running for the executive branch secretary for the KAB ticket, the police report said. The election commission, however, found no proof that there was a connection between the KAB campaign and the student caught removing the sign.

"Due to the open investigation by campus police, we cannot enforce any punishment due to lack of evidence," a written statement documenting the ruling of the election committee read. "The individuals caught are not members of KAB's campaign volunteers so we cannot prove any affiliation with KAB, and the signs were returned so DZT will not be affected in their promotions."

This investigation was ignited after two students were caught removing DZT signs in the Centennial Hall area of campus on the night of April 11. 

The signs were returned to Doretha Benn, the presidential candidate for the DZT ticket, who was present on the scene. 

A total of 13 signs were recovered, which Doretha said cost about $100. 

After hearing the one student's claim of being affiliated with Schaller, Public Safety questioned Schaller, who denied any association with the sign removal. 

"They were not officially affiliated nor endorsed by us," said Kevin Carlson, the presidential candidate for the KAB ticket. 

Benn said that she was frustrated by the election commission's ruling in the matter of the removed signs.

"The election committee said evidence was inconclusive," Benn said. "They did absolutely nothing about it."

The fact that the DZT candidates paid for the campaign signs themselves added to her frustration.

"I am deeply saddened by it," Benn said. "It really hurts. We paid for this ourselves; it came right out of our pockets."

Schaller said that the suspects who removed the signs were people who used to live next door to him in his residence hall and were quite excited to learn that he was running for secretary of SGA

"A lot of people were supporting us, but not on our commission," Schaller said. 

"They were putting stickers on things that they weren't supposed to, they were obviously taking up signs, and wanting, I guess, in their twisted way to help. But they were never offered or asked to help on behalf of us."

KAB maintains that while these individuals may have removed the signs, they were not connected to their ticket. 

"Those people pulled the signs; there's no question about that," Carlson said. "But they were in no way endorsed, affiliated or bribed by us. 

"We had no connection to them, they chose of their own volition to engage in criminal activity that we did not endorse."

Carlson said that he actively worked with DZT after the incident to straighten out the ordeal.

"I was in contact with DZT the night this happened, and I encouraged them to press charges against the individuals involved to demonstrate that we do not stand for this," Carlson said. "We pushed for charges to be pressed against those individuals because we are not related to them. I think that this incident is telling because the other team chose to file what they knew and what we told them were false allegations in terms of our affiliation.

"We told the other ticket right off the bat that we do not endorse these people, and that we support legal action against them. So I think that our integrity has been demonstrated right from the very beginning, and we intend to maintain that." 

Moving forward, both tickets agree on one thing: clean, above-board campaigns are a must for the future.

"We're still going to run a clean campaign," Benn said. "This is a setback; I didn't think anyone would stoop this low. We're going to keep doing what we've been doing, though; we're not going to fight fire with fire."

Carlson said that KAB is also dedicated to running a clean campaign, as well as working with DZT to prevent further incidents like this one.

"In terms of moving forward, I think that we intend to continue collaborating with DZT to ensure that this kind of thing does not happen again, and I think that we stand united as two tickets against criminal activity in this campaign," Carlson said. 

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