University of Maryland SGA members falsified at least 33 signatures on a petition after voting for the organization’s elections closed in an effort to appeal an elections violation decision.
The decision surrounded whether the Aspire Maryland party should receive violation points for improperly documenting a table on its campaign finance report. Parties who receive 100 or more violation points are automatically disqualified from the race. Following the end of voting on April 26, the Student Government Association’s elections commission ruled that use of the table did not warrant a violation.
Student body president-elect Alexandra DeBus, who ran with the United Maryland party, submitted the petition to the SGA’s governance board. The petition asked the board to hear a case reevaluating the elections commission’s finding of no violations. For the governance board to hear the case, the presented petition had to have 100 valid signatures, per SGA bylaws.
A copy of the petition obtained by The Diamondback lists 130 student signatures. The Diamondback made contact this week with 51 of the students listed. Of those, 33 people said they did not sign the petition, while 17 people confirmed they knowingly signed. The remaining 79 did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
Junior government and politics major Matias Cacheiro’s name appeared on the petition without his knowledge.
“I definitely didn’t sign it, I can tell you that for a fact,” Cacheiro said. “I think it’s pretty sleazy.”
[United Maryland’s Alexandra DeBus elected UMD SGA president after two-week results delay]
In a recording obtained by The Diamondback, Nicholas Marks, a sophomore government and politics and secondary education major and the SGA’s current deputy director of student groups, said he got student names to put on the petition.
“Do you honest to god think I found 100 people? I know 100 people,” Marks said on the recording, which was taken by a member of SGA who preferred to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation. “I did my part, I did the petitions, I got the evidence.”
In the hearing that resulted from the petition, the SGA’s governance board ruled against granting Aspire Maryland violation points, upholding the elections commission’s decision.
But outgoing SGA president Ayelette Halbfinger, a senior finance and operations management and business analytics major, then formed an illegitimate governance board. The illegitimate governance board retried the case and decided to grant the violation points.
In the recording, Marks also made comments about the formation of this illegitimate governance board.
“I have five fucking people who will vote in our favor, I don’t know what the hesitation is,” Marks said in the recording, referring to the illegitimate justices Halbfinger appointed who voted to grant violation points to Aspire Maryland.
Junior mechanical engineering major Ciaran Cusick’s name was also on the petition. Cusick filled out a form on behalf of Terps Racing, a student organization he is involved in, to endorse United Maryland. However, he did not consent to signing any petitions. Cusick included his name and university ID on the endorsement form and both were found on the petition.
“I was not expecting my name to be used in any petitions or other internal SGA documents,” Cusick wrote in an email to The Diamondback. “I was not contacted by United Maryland before the petition was submitted, nor did I even know about it until your email.”
[UMD SGA to investigate student body president on election interference claims]
Princess Isi-Obuseh is a sophomore family sciences major and was elected as the SGA’s public health representative after campaigning with the United Maryland ticket. Her name also appeared on the petition without her knowledge.
“I don’t have any thoughts about having my name on it other than the fact that I didn’t put my name there,” Isi-Obuseh said.
In a written statement to The Diamondback, Marks said “a lapse in communication” resulted in people listed on the petition saying they did not sign it.
“We reached out to all members of our affiliate team during the process. The affiliates were (as per my understanding under the SGA Election Rules) supporting the ticket in all its affairs when they signed up as one,” Marks said. “Certain affiliates did not fully understand what being an affiliate is, a lapse in communication that I alone bear the responsibility for.”
Halbfinger and DeBus declined to comment on the petition.
Halbfinger’s creation of the illegitimate governance board led legislators in the SGA to call for impeachment proceedings last week, which would have begun with an ethics investigation into Halbfinger.
The ethics committee did not pursue this investigation despite the SGA general body voting in favor of it, in part because of the stringent timeline the committee would have needed to follow to reach a conclusion, according to an SGA member.
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story misstated Nicholas Marks’ current role in the SGA. Marks is the deputy director of student groups. This story has been updated.
Senior staff writers Marwa Barakat, Shifra Dayak, Marijke Friedman and Akshaj Gaur contributed to this story.