Election scandal rocks UCL union

Gareth Collins and Matt Knight

CONTROVERSY surrounds the UCL sabbatical elections, with accusations of gross misconduct levelled against two of the candidates for the post of Finance and Societies Officer. The plot is thickened by suggestions that two of the candidates are ganging up on a third to spread scurrilous rumours to scupper her campaign. As a result of a number of these complaints, the election is being re-run, and a threat of disqualification hangs over two of the candidates.

From the outset the election for the position of Finance and Societies Officer has been dogged with problems. The manifesto for the sabbatical elections had the section for the Finance and Societies Officer ripped out. The explanation given to London Student was that one candidate, Harvey Bootland, made comments regarding the current financing policy of the union that went against staff-student protocol.

In addition to this Harvey Bootland broke further regulations when he asserted in his posters that he was the only candidate opposing the BUSA merger, when he was not. The consequence of this was that Mr Bootland was ordered to remove all his posters from the college.

Despite this Maria Iouannou is adamant that two other candidates have been attempting to get her disqualified from the elections. A member of her campaign team was more candid. “Both Harvey Bootland and Rachel Cunningham have connections with the Law department, which seems out to get Maria. I don’t know about any of the actual accusations against her, I certainly think that they are unlikely, but I know that there are some dirty tricks going on somewhere.”

An anonymous source told London Student that she believed Maria had “blatantly broken the standing orders throughout the election.” In particular it was alleged that Maria had exceeded the £100 election expenses limit by producing 16 T-shirts and a banner, which the source estimated to have a commercial price of over £120. In addition to this it was suggested that Maria had delivered flyers to halls of residence against the rules. Perhaps most controversial, were the allegations that Maria’s teams had sat behind the ballot box and pressurised voters, and that one of her team carried the ballot box from the Octagon to the union building. Although it has been suggested that the bar manager of Huntley Street could attest to the former allegation, London Student has been unable to definitively substantiate these claims.

That the union failed to up hold these accusations have led some to believe there has been favouritism in the election committee towards Maria.

Maria Iouannou, candidate.
Maria Iouannou. Photo courtesy of UCL Union

MARI WILLIAMS, the returning officer for the elections, stated that accusations of impropriety from the existing sabbaticals are “utterly untrue.” Miss Williams further stated that “all the candidates have been able to see the complaints submitted and we have substantiated two complaints based on what the candidates have submitted.”

UCLU’s official statement on the affair reads: “Two complaints regarding campaigning have been substantiated by the union.” These were: 1) A member of Harvey Bootland’s campaign team was situated within 3m of the ballot box; 2) Maria Iouannou delivered flyers to halls of residence after the permitted time.

These irregularities do not necessarily require the election to be re-run, however, the fact that all candidates have been allowed to run again suggests that the Union disbelieves, or disregards, the accusations levelled against Miss Iouannou. However, by re-running the election, the Union is able to head off any further criticism, by ceding a fresh campaign, and a new chance for all parties to exonerate themselves. Further misdemeanours, the Union states, will result in disqualification from the Union.

Maria Iouannou vehemently denies the claims of corruption, and claims that she never even saw the standing orders which she is said to have broken, and was supposed to have signed: “We were never given a set of rules, and we certainly weren’t told that we couldn’t flyer halls. Most of the campaign teams [for all positions] sent flyers to halls. We were later told that this was an: ‘Invasion of privacy.’ I was delivering flyers to Schafer Hall with another candidate [for another post], when we were spotted by Helen Bootland (Harvey’s sister) who reported me. But only me.”

Maria was told that Harvey was delivering flyers to other halls, but no one complained about him. “I heard rumours on Friday afternoon that other candidates were trying to get me disqualified.” Maria alleges that Henri San Cassa, a campaigner for Harvey Bootland, was harassing voters and swearing at people who didn’t vote for Harvey. In addition to this she also alleged that Harvey Bootland had paid students to circulate his flyers. Although names of students have been given these claims also remain unproven.

Maria told how “The election committee that met on Monday rejected all other complaints against me.”

In response to the allegations about her over-spending on her campaign, Maria said: “In the campaign pack, which we were given at the start of the election, it said that all items we were given were to be entered and budgeted at cost price. The standing orders apparently said that these items had to be listed at commercial price. I asked Mari Williams – several times, and she confirmed that we were supposed to use cost price. My father owns a clothes factory, so he printed 16 T-shirts and a banner for me, which we budgeted at cost price, under £100. The election committee accepted that the items were listed at cost price.” Maria alleges that Harvey did exceed his budget, while she remained within hers.

Mari Williams substantiated these comments and told London Student, “basically it was the fault of the elections committee that the rules were not made clear from the beginning.”

Maria and Harvey were both unhappy with the decision to delay the count: “What upsets me most is whoever wins this election is not a true representative as there will be far less people voting”. This will clearly be the case especially considering the first election attracted almost 2,500 voters.

Maria went on to defend the other claims made about her: “One of my team members was carrying the ballot box, but she was only helping an official carry the box as far as the Union lifts. None of my team were involved in the count.”

As for the team member behind the ballot box she commented, “I had never seen her before. Apparently she lives in my hall, and she tried to speak to me, but I don’t even know her.” Maria had heard people talk about this girl being behind the ballot box all day on Friday, but she claims: “I think she was just putting her things behind the box. She was only there for a second.”

In particular Maria’s relationship with the current Communications Officer, Sorrel Moseley-Williams has been questioned. Maria said “We’re not best friends. We both sit on Union council, and when we realised we had the same 21st birthday we decided to hold a party together; that was arranged months before the election. I’m friends with all the sabbatical officers.” In response to allegations of favouritism Sorrel stated “I have nothing to do with the running, nothing to do with the counting, nothing to do with anything, all I did was put together the sabbatical manifesto.”

Maria feels that she has acted properly, and that the allegations made against her were panic tactics employed by the other teams when they realised that she was going to win comfortably. She concluded that these allegations have “turned the elections bitter.”

As yet London Student has been unable to substantiate the claims made against Maria Iouannou or against Harvey Bootland. The election was re-run from Wednesday to Friday this week. the result was unknown at the time of press.

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