Violations overruled, Claybrook elected SBP
SGA Judicial Court refunds all fines against Claybrook
Published: Monday, March 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07
Supporters of John Claybrook erupted into celebration at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday when they learned the Student Government Judicial Court overturned Claybrook's disqualification, officially making the candidate student body president-elect.
"I'm ecstatic. It's good to remember that tonight was a win for our campaign. It wasn't a win for me," Claybrook said. "We're glad the voice of the students was heard tonight."
Runoff contender Thomas McNutt was not present when the Court made its official ruling. He reacted to the news by congratulating Claybrook and offering his support.
"In victory and in defeat, we give God all the glory, and I wish my good friend John all the best of luck," McNutt said. "If he needs any help in improving Texas A&M, I'm here to do what I can."
It was announced that Claybrook was disqualified on Friday, after receiving 60.25 percent of the runoff vote. He was disqualified because an audit of his expense report increased the candidate's total expenses above $1,800, the limit for SBP candidates.
Mark Womack, a member of John Claybrook's campaign team, presented his case to the Judicial Court Monday night. Womack gave a fiery defense of the campaign's actions, drawing a standing ovation from the audience in the Koldus Governance Room, most of whom were Claybrook supporters.
Given past Judicial Court hearings, the court has the authority to both reassess fines against a campaign and reinstate a disqualified candidate, as it eventually did Tuesday morning.
Womack began his defense by saying the Claybrook campaign would prove that the candidate's campaign expensed items purchased according to strict interpretations of the rules and that Claybrook rightfully won the election.
"There is no one here that would argue that John Claybrook did not receive the majority of student votes and did not win this election," Womack said.
Womack requested that the court acknowledge his claim in its final decision.
The first issue brought up by Womack involved tax and fair market value. The Claybrook campaign was accused of not incorporating tax in its expense report. Election regulations state the responsibility for calculating fair market value lies with the Election Commission. Regulations also state fair market values must include tax.
Drew Shelnutt, representing the Election Commission, argued tax was not included in the formula used in the budget spreadsheets, and that the Claybrook campaign should have recognized this.
Womack addressed the accusation that the Claybrook campaign prorated its website. The Claybrook campaign also received a violation for not providing a receipt for the purchase of its website. According to Womack, one month of the website domain was donated to the Claybrook campaign, and that month was properly expensed, also explaining why there was no receipt available.
The Claybrook campaign had extra shipping charges added to its final budget in one of the violations. Womack said the election commission held no power to regulate shipping. Shelnutt cited the election rules and regulations and defined the "entire cost" as including shipping charges.
"If you do not have that item in hand you are not able to use it," Shelnutt said. "And until that item gets in your hand it is not an item that is able to use."
Womack argued that this was a very liberal interpretation.
"If we were to allow this interpretation, everything from the gas you use to drive to C.C. Creations and pick up the shirts would have to be expensed," Womack said.
When asked by Chief Justice Ben Rowe, Election Commissioner Kyle Jackson said to the best of his knowledge, there had never been a candidate disqualified for going over budget in SGA election history.
The Judicial Court ultimately ruled in favor of Claybrook regarding every count except one, refunding every fine and bringing the final expense level beneath $1,800.
If Claybrook had been over the $1,800 mark, he may still have been declared SBP-elect because the court ruled that candidates could not be disqualified for exceeding the budget limit.
"A candidate cannot be disqualified based on running over budget due [to] the absence of an explicit clause concerned with budget amounts and their relation to disqualification," the court ruling read.