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Friday December 2nd

CAA Works to Eradicate Effects of Turbulent Year

CAA President Reid Chaney said he plans to give the organization a face lift by distancing himself from past administrations marred by scandal.

But Chaney says the changes will be more than cosmetic. He said his administration will take key lessons from both the successes and failures of former CAA President Tee Pruitt's two-year term. "You have to look to the past and learn from the past but also look at the good things they did," Chaney said.

This year marks the organization's most controversial period to date. The CAA's success last fall in implementing student riser sections for men's basketball games often was overshadowed by allegations of rigged ticket distributions -- including the Duke distribution.

Former Board of Elections Vice Chairman Fred Hill went before Student Congress with claims of tangible evidence of corruption within the CAA and also cited personal experience with misconduct in ticket distribution practices.

Hostility began to brew within the CAA's leadership ranks as well. And the November decision to alter the ticket distribution process to eliminate the publication of bracelet numbers fueled student frustrations with the group.

Although the CAA succeeded in diminishing cheating habits with the new system, quicker distribution practices became a popular campaign promise in February's student elections.

But any platform issues addressed by candidates for CAA president quickly were consumed by tensions that finally broke forth in the contentious race.

Candidacies were unclear in January when candidates were required to declare their intentions to run, with Pruitt, his former Vice President Bryan Hart, junior Michael Songer and three unknowns -- including Chaney -- expressing interest in the post.

But as the candidate pool narrowed to Songer and Chaney, tensions ran high. Hart jumped aboard Chaney's campaign, publicly expressing his fears that Songer was untrustworthy and would ruin the organization.

And while he never publicly threw his support behind Chaney, Pruitt made it clear whose side he was on.

But as he rode on the shoulders of CAA officials, Chaney said he had little to do with the personal controversies. "(CAA Vice President) Jon (Kanipe) and I were brought into this by association."

No resolution was reached in the Feb. 13 election, as the two deadlocked. Days later, Chaney was declared the official winner after several write-in candidates were eliminated and Chaney secured the majority needed for victory.

But not for long. Songer called for Chaney's disqualification after UNC alumnus and former Carolina Fever President Davin McGinnis sent a mass e-mail to students calling Songer a liar before the election. Songer produced another e-mail -- later dubbed the "smoking gun" -- as evidence that claimed Pruitt, Hart and then-Fever Co-president Eric Ellis were involved with McGinnis' e-mail. At the time, Hart and Ellis were both Chaney campaign workers.

Any slanderous actions by a campaign are grounds for disqualification, according to UNC election laws.

But the Board of Elections later ruled that the smoking gun e-mail likely was a forgery and initiated an investigation of senior Liz Gardner and junior B.J. Talley based on evidence that the two had been involved in the e-mail's creation.

The board ruled last week that insufficient evidence existed to implicate Gardner and Talley beyond a reasonable doubt.

Closure in the race came sooner, however. The board ruled to hold a re-election Feb. 27, of which Chaney was the winner.

But the organization wasn't free of public scrutiny yet. In March, three of Songer's campaign workers still involved in the CAA were fired allegedly for shirking their duties. Gardner resigned in protest shortly thereafter.

CAA officials only had a month to recuperate before Congress turned its eyes on the organization.

Sarah Marks, former chairwoman of Congress' Rules and Judiciary Committee, authored a bill calling for the CAA to be placed under Congress' oversight. The bill, which passed April 2, also mandated that the starting numbers for ticket distributions be chosen in public; that bracelet number ranges be published; and that public records be kept of every ticket given to CAA Cabinet members, Carolina Fever members or any other student officials or organizations.

The 83rd session of Congress later considered a bill calling for an investigation of the CAA by a congressional committee, but the bill failed.

Now Chaney has the opportunity to press ahead with his plans for the organization. Chaney said he is glad the bill was passed in an effort to restore students' trust in the CAA. "The organization as a whole problem isn't in the best light," he said. "However, we have a fresh group of people ... willing to work hard."

Chaney said the CAA race was difficult for all parties involved, and the repercussions now pose a new challenge for him -- winning over those disillusioned with the organization's politics. "I think what happened hurt Michael Songer and myself," he said. "I think it turned a lot of people off ... they wanted to see it over with."

Chaney said being open and visible in public is the best strategy to handle the situation.

"I know we'll do some things that aren't going to make everybody happy, but I hope the good things will outweigh the bad things," he said.

In preparation for next year's business, Chaney said experience was something he considered when selecting Cabinet members. "But I look at myself, and I don't have any experience," he said.

He said he is concerned with his lack of experience from a presidential standpoint, but he will listen to those working around him. "I think a new group leading can be a good thing. (It can provide) a new outlook on issues and ideas."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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