The Humber Students’ Federation Board of Directors met Wednesday in a tense and confrontational three-and-a-half hour meeting focusing on the previous week’s controversial elections.
In particular, the disqualification of presidential incumbent Timothy Brilhante the day before the polls closed raised questions about whether changes should be made to the HSF’s Election and Appeals policy. (Three vice-presidential candidates were also disqualified.)
Brilhante played a recording of himself in which he challenged the controversial “strikes” given to him by chief returning officer Natalia Toussaint and asked for the opportunity to appeal the unexplained decision to disqualify him.
“I’m focusing on the policy and the big issue is that I was never accorded an appeal when that’s what I was entitled to,” said Brilhante, who garnered nearly twice as many votes as current president-elect Shawn Manahan.
Brilhante was referring to the fact that once he was disqualified, he was no longer considered a candidate, and therefore lost the right of appeal that all candidates hold.
He also alluded to “dirt” he has on Shawn Manahan, the incoming president, and potential bias on the part of Toussaint, but didn’t elaborate.
Director Emily Rockarts raised concerns about the over 2,400 votes Brilhante received, saying the votes were “thrown away.”
Colin Edwards-Crewe, Lakeshore’s vice president of student life, objected to this saying that by not following the rules, “the candidate threw away the votes, not HSF.”
Director Cristina Marin called into question whether the Judicial Review Committee could be unbiased because they all know each other, and mentioned Brilhante’s social media use after his disqualification as a factor that would create bias.
Finance and operations officer Frank Rizzi, about whom Brilhante said several times “he looked up to as an uncle,” said the CRO ultimately had the final word on candidate disqualifications.
“Over 20 times, it’s mentioned (in HSF policy that disqualification is) at the discretion of the CRO. And so policies are written with grey areas, and there’s room for interpretation,” Rizzi said. “That’s the CRO’s job.”
Brilhante said the CRO acted as “judge, jury and executioner” in his case, and he’d like to see more checks and balances in the system.
Several times throughout the meeting, Chairperson Rosa Figueroa reminded the board that the Elections and Appeals policy was under discussion, not specific candidates’ grievances.
The votes electronically recorded to my name would have been reset to zero and we would never have truly understood where I was in the polls
About an hour into the meeting, as tensions were high, Brilhante accused the chairperson of not actually being chair because the board did not elect her.
“I’ve just uncovered new evidence in our constitution – our chairperson is someone elected or appointed amongst the Board of Directors,” he said.
Figueroa responded by saying during summer training the board agreed this would be a transition year for them, and she would be the chairperson for the year.
“You were on the board last year so you were part of the board that approved the transition for the board,” she said.
Next year, an elected board member will be selected as chair, rather than being hired.
After a two-minute recess, Brilhante apologized to Figueroa, explaining it is an emotional time for him.
The board did not grant Brilhante an appeal, but agreed changes should be made to the policy.
Eric Collings, who is also chair of the Governance Review Committee, said that the committee would change the policy over the summer.
“I’m personally looking at the policy over the summer and working with people to make sure we really re-vamp it and this will happen when there‘s no personal opinions that linger,” he said.
The second half of the meeting focused on the conduct of the board.
Marin listed grievances she had against Brilhante’s presidency, saying that she found him not present enough and that he had not held his vice presidents accountable enough. She also said that his role as a candidate has interfered with his role as president.
“I know for a fact, in the past week you have not been fulfilling your duties as president because you have been letting your role as a candidate overrule your duty as president,” she said.
North campus’ VP of student affairs Kay Tracey and Edwards-Crewe also brought up issues with Brilhante’s presidency, such as absence and lack of support for his VPs.
Collings alleged Brilhante emailed Humber IT after his disqualification to possibly freeze the polls.
“My thoughts were that the votes electronically recorded to my name would have been reset to zero and we would never have truly understood where I was in the polls,” Brilhante said. “I admit I asked Humber IT… to just record a snapshot… perhaps I was out of line with that, I don’t know.”
He also mentioned Rizzi had previously praised his job as president.
“Frank himself has said that I’m the best president that has ever been around,” he said.
Brilhante ended his response to criticisms saying, “families argue, but in the end we’re still family.”
The meeting was adjourned at 9:20 p.m.
Kylie Waghorn, a third-year psychology student, attended the meeting to hear what the board had to say about the transparency of the elections.
“I was a little bit confused about the lack of transparency with the reasons for the disqualification of the four candidates,” she said.
She said she felt conflicted after the meeting.
“I feel like they still haven’t addressed the lack of transparency with the elections and with the appeals for the candidates. However, that being said, they did say that that would be looked into for an action item,” Waghorn said.
“They have recognized that there is a problem and a loophole in the policy and they are looking to correct that and move forward in the following year, so that’s a great thing,” she said.
The discussion isn’t over yet.
The General Annual Meeting on Wednesday, March 26, at the North campus Student Centre at 11 a.m., will focus on the issues of candidates’ disqualifications, transparency and the appeals process.