The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday April 23rd

Board of Elections to consider disqualifying Rick Ingram

Hearing to focus on ‘malicious’ campaigning

Watch the event live by clicking here.

The Board of Elections will decide tonight if it will disqualify student body president candidate Rick Ingram from Tuesday’s election.

See the administrative decision from the Board of Elections, with complaints from candidates Mary Cooper and Ian Lee.
See candidate Rick Ingram’s response.

The hearing comes in response to accusations by candidates Mary Cooper and Ian Lee that Ingram’s campaign has violated election law in a “malicious and harmful manner.”

The accusations submitted to the board cite incidents in which Ingram and campaign manager Billy Kluttz reportedly insulted, harassed and attempted to intimidate members of the Cooper and Lee campaigns, along with students not affiliated with a campaign.

The accusations are all descriptions of in-person incidents aside from a transcript of a Jan. 23 text message conversation between Ingram and Lee.

“It’s all complete hearsay,” Ingram said, adding that the accusations are exaggerated and mostly false.

He sent a statement to the board that responded to each incident specifically.

“I can tell you right now this is absurd,” he said in an interview. “I don’t think we’ve done anything that in the wildest interpretation of these events can be classified as malicious and harmful.”

Andrew Phillips, the board’s chairman, said the board must go beyond proving the authenticity of the claims to disqualify Ingram.

“The board’s chief concern is we take the burden of proof very seriously,” he said.

“I think that’s something that past boards have failed to do.”

Title VI, Article III, Section 310 of the Student Code gives the board the authority to disqualify a campaign that has violated election laws in a “manner as to be considered malicious and harmful.” The code lists multiple breaches, an intentional or organized act against another candidate and plans to obstruct the election process as examples of such infringements.

The board voted unanimously Friday night to hold the disqualification hearing, during which it will hear Ingram respond to the accusations. Should the board decide to punish Ingram’s campaign, it would likely either fine Ingram, remove a member from his campaign or disqualify him, Phillips said.

‘The looks on their faces’

Cooper and Lee met with the board in an informal meeting Thursday night to express their concerns about Ingram’s campaign methods, they said.

Phillips said he could tell the allegations were serious even before he heard them.

“More than anything else, the looks on their faces betrayed the seriousness of what they described to me,” he said.

The accusations against Ingram’s campaign, which were listed in the administrative decision released by the board Friday, paint Ingram and Kluttz as vulgar, overly competitive and given to intimidation.

In the document, Lee accuses Ingram of sending him texts that defamed his character and of making an obscene hand gesture to a member of his campaign staff.

Cooper accuses Kluttz of telling a member of her campaign to “get the f—- away, little f—-ers;” insulting Cooper, a member of her campaign and her roommate with a sexually offensive and derogatory term and attempting to stop a student from signing a petition for her candidacy, then telling a member of her campaign to “get out of my territory.”

Cooper and Lee said they decided to bring evidence against Ingram when his actions began affecting their friends, even bringing some of them to tears.

Ingram responds, hits back

Ingram said the reported incidents are false or greatly exaggerated and that the actions of other candidates have paralleled his own.

In his written response to the allegations, Ingram challenged the authenticity of every incident, aside from the text transcript.

In an e-mail accompanying the response, he said the incidents do not constitute harmful activity.

“Malicious activities in the past have centered around things like destroying candidates’ A-frames, destroying other campaign materials, starting rumors based off of factually incorrect information and disseminating it through different networks around campus, among many other things that could change the outcome of an election,” he wrote. “The things I am charged with do none of these things.”

Ingram said Cooper and Lee colluded in their complaints to help their own chances of being elected.

“The Board of Elections doesn’t just put together two suits,” he said. “(Cooper and Lee) obviously did this in tandem.”

Ingram received the most petition signatures of any of the candidates — 1,368 more than Cooper, who received the second-most.

Cooper and Lee met with the board informally Thursday night, they said, but stressed they were not presenting accusations together.

Members of the board asked the two candidates to submit their accusations to the group for the hearing. The evidence did not amount to a formal complaint.

The board then held an emergency meeting Friday night to determine if it would hold a disqualification hearing. Members voted unanimously to hold such a hearing.

Ingram filed a complaint in response to the board’s decision. It says that Cooper and Lee’s “collusive action” against his campaign violates the same section of the Student Code under which he is being investigated.

Jeff DeLuca, a member of Ingram’s campaign, also filed a complaint to the board that claims Lee must resign his position as student body secretary in order to run, also citing Section 310.

Phillips said the board would likely throw out the complaint on the grounds that it issued a decision in December that found Lee’s candidacy was legal as long as he doesn’t use his office for campaigning.

He added that should it decide to punish Ingram, the board would likely take the effectiveness of a punishment into account, given the hearing’s proximity to the election. If Ingram is disqualified, write-in votes for him would not count.

Ingram said he was frustrated and uncertain of his fate.

“I guess we’ll just have to see what happens,” he said.

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