SGAElectionPicStephen Keller shakes hands with whistle-blower Chris Allen on election day. (Courtesy of J. B. Hilley’s Twitter account.)

 

By Rich Robinson, Taylor WrayChris Beacham, Heath Howard, and Cameron Hurley-Knight

 

Click on the link for an updated version of this story: http://wvuafm.ua.edu/2014/04/21/the-story-in-90-seconds-sga-elections-scandal-update/

Below is the archived version of this story as it appeared on March 12, 2014:

In a series of  interviews conducted on Election Day, Vice President Elect of Student Affairs Stephen Keller acknowledged that his campaign was working with other Machine candidates under the banner of “Students for Experienced Leadership” and that he personally distributed flyers that he did not pay for, which is a violation of SGA elections rules according to materials provided by the elections board.

Keller also was photographed with a whistle-blower, Chris Allen shaking hands after their conversation on the Quad. In the photo, Allen is holding a neon colored flyer that he says was handed to him by a Hamilton Bloom volunteer. The Bloom volunteer clearly indicates her support of both Bloom and Keller in a recording provided by Allen.

Under SGA election rules, anyone associated with a campaign must conduct themselves in accordance with predetermined regulations including spending reporting procedures and that, “all candidates and their volunteers shall be responsible for knowing its contents.”

The Bloom campaign denied that they had anything to do with “Students for Experienced Leadership.”

The SGA elections manual also says that, “Any candidate failing to file any report of campaign expenditures or contributions required by this Election Code or exceeding the limit on campaign expenditures set in this Election Manual shall be disqualified.” [Emphasis added]

If the flyers were donated to the Keller campaign, then they would be considered an “in-kind” donation under election rules, which also must be reported in the final spending report. But when reached for comment, Keller said that the spending for the “Students for Experienced Leadership” flyers would not show up, seeming to go against SGA election rules, as his campaign utilized a material they did not pay for.

The flyers displayed the biographies of all the Machine candidates who ran for and were elected to executive positions. Bloom, the SGA President-Elect received top billing on the flyer. His campaign manager, Mary Wills rejected the assertion that Bloom or his campaign were involved in the flyers on Capstone News Now’s election night program.

Click to listen to clip:

 

[WILLS]: “We had nothing to do with any other information that was distributed. We had our own efforts. We had no ties with anyone else.”

The recording also reveals that Keller was campaigning in close proximity to Bloom volunteers and that his campaign was actively passing out the flyers in question. In a post election interview, Keller denied his campaign’s involvement with the flyers.

 photo(1)The flyer that Keller passed out to students during the last day of campaigning. (Rich Robinson)

Click to listen to clip:

[REPORTER]: “Did you guys have anything to do with the ‘Students for Experienced Leadership Group?’”

[STEPHEN KELLER]: “No, we did not. I’m not really sure who facilitated that, but I think it’s a fair point to point out which students got leadership in the SGA.”

However, he also said that he was handed a stack of the neon flyers and that his campaign started passing them out towards the end of the day.

[REPORTER]: “So just to clarify, you guys did not have anything to do with the green flyers that were being passed out today?”

[STEPHEN KELLER]: “No, towards the end of the day I did sort of campaign for people on the form that I think students are ready to work for.”

When asked if spending for the “Students for Experienced Leadership” flyers will appear on his final campaign spending report, Keller said no.

[REPORTER]: “Do you know who paid for these flyers? If you had nothing to do with it, do you know who is responsible for it, do you have any information, because that could go a long way?”

[STEPHEN KELLER]:  “No idea sir, I was just handed a handful and I told everyone ‘thank you very much.’”

[REPORTER]: “When your financial report comes out, is it going to say anything about this green form?”

[STEPHEN KELLER]:  “Uh, no it’s actually not, I only report finances I personally spent, and like I said, I was handed flyers, and I started handing them out to students, thank you very much.”

In the recorded conversation provided by the whistle-blower, Keller also acknowledged that his campaign actively worked with other Machine candidates and that they formed a coalition in the waning moments of the election season.

Click to listen to clip:

 

[CHRIS ALLEN]: “So, do you know all these guys?”

[STEPHEN KELLER]: “Yeah, I know them all, they’re all great.  We started this platform because we’re being opposed by a lot of people who don’t have any experience in SGA whatsoever… And I feel like we ran this and we started, we started to announce ourselves as ‘Students for Experienced Leadership’ today because we feel experience is necessary.”

[CHRIS ALLEN]: “So, is this like your group, ‘Students for Experienced Leadership?’”

[STEPHEN KELLER]: “Yes. Great, it only takes two seconds to vote and we really appreciate your support.”

The SGA election code defines fraud, “as any willful act, deed, or conspiracy that violates the integrity of the electoral process during the time leading up to and during the voting period.”

The plain clothed Bloom volunteer began the conservation with Allen by advocating for her candidate. But the chat soon turned to other campaigns.

 MalletPic

A anti-Machine flyer near food service of Fresh Foods dinning hall on election day. (Taylor Wray)

Click to listen to clip:

 

[BLOOM VOLUNTEER]: Consider voting for Hamilton Bloom, we really appreciate your support.

[CHRIS ALLEN]: Where do we vote at?

[BLOOM VOLUNTEER]: MyBama, open until seven and it takes two seconds. These are the candidates that have been within SGA since they first got on the University. They are passionate about helping students, so we put them all on the same page so, I know, its so confusing to get one for Hamilton. So we put them all together on one form to make it easier so you can do it on your cell phone.

[CHRIS ALLEN]: So what am I backing with these guys?

[BLOOM VOLUNTEER]: For example, Hamilton Bloom is really into getting small groups on campus connected within SGA… Hamilton is really for getting everyone to know what is going on within SGA, he also has a lot of plans for getting diversity within SGA. Laura Gregory is running for academic, and actually, Stevie, would you like to come talk to this guy?”

At that point in the recording, Keller comes over to talk to Allen.

The photo between Keller and Allen was taken minutes later and posted on J. B. Hilley’s Twitter account. Keller’s campaign’s account soon retweeted the photo, where it is currently displayed.

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 11.31.25 PMScreen-capture of the Stephen Keller campaign Twitter account with Allen prominently featured. (Rich Robinson)

Who is the Whistle-blower?

Chris Allen is not a UA student and is not even from the state. He says he was in town visiting a friend over spring break when he got involved in a SGA elections scandal. He spoke to Capstone News Now about the entire situation.

Click to listen to clip:

cwpic

Other media outlets, including the Crimson White have picked up on the story. (Taylor Wray)

Keller Responds

A few hours after celebrating his victory to the Vice Presidency of Student Affairs, Stephen Keller spoke to Capstone News Now about the allegations of voter fraud facing his campaign.

Click to listen to clip:

Elliot Spillers Calls Keller “Pretty Bold”

Click on the link to hear Elliot Spillers reaction to the situation:  http://wvuafm.ua.edu/2014/03/16/elliot-spillers-calls-keller-admission-of-election-rule-breaking-pretty-bold/

What is the Machine?

Click on the link to learn more about the history of the Machine: http://wvuafm.ua.edu/2014/04/21/what-is-the-machine/

UPDATED: 4-20-2014 11:47 PM

Stay with Capstone News Now as we continue reporting on this breaking news situation. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest information and keep checking back to this page for updates as they come.

 

***If you would like to report a SGA election fraud tip, you can send them to news@wvuafm.ua.edu.***

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