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Threats of legal action may fell Fogarty Senate win

Allegations have surfaced that undergraduate candidate Dalton Fogarty breached the candidates’ guidelines during the University of Sydney Senate election of Student Fellows. Justin Pen has the story, with additional reporting by Felix Donovan.

A challenge has been lodged against undergraduate candidate Dalton Fogarty over an alleged breach of candidates’ guidelines, less than 48 hours after the University of Sydney Senate Student Fellow elections had closed.

Honi understands the complaint alleges members of Fogarty’s campaign failed to comply with rules of the secret ballot.

“Senate elections must be conducted by means of secret ballot, candidates and their supporters must not be physically near a voter when that voter lodges his or her vote,” the guidelines for candidates read.

The challengers, fellow candidates Patrick Massarani and Annabel Osborn, told Honi in a joint statement: “We have sought a number of legal opinions regarding the conduct of the election.”

The pair declared they intended to appeal to the Returning Officer, and that, if the appeal were to fail, they would consider further legal action.

“We have received advice that the evidence underpinning our appeal is compelling,” the statement reads.

“Students deserve a free and fair election. The manner in which this election has been conducted has fallen well short of that expectation.”

Fogarty told Honi a similar complaint had been lodged against him during the campaign. “It was an accusation made for political gain, and was not substantiated by the Returning Officer, he said.

The electoral guidelines were issued to all candidates by Secretary to Senate David Pacey, after nominations had been accepted.

The guidelines indicate candidates will be held responsible for the actions of their campaigners.

“[Candidates] will be expected to inform supporters who campaign on their behalf of the requirements of these guidelines and to require them to observe those requirements at all times.”

Similar allegations concerning breaches of the secret ballot were made two years ago.  At the time, however, Fogarty, who had previously run for the position in 2012, was on the other side of the complaint.

Allegations of this nature were also made in 2011 and resulted in a nullification of the preliminary results, forcing a second election to be held.

In 2012, the candidates accused of electoral misconduct were given a warning and told to cease their actions immediately.

Honi previously reported Fogarty had claimed 1,516 votes of the total 2,868 cast, with incumbent Student Fellow Massarani placing second on 526 votes. Candidates Osborn, Dean Shachar and Nick Fahy received 349, 320, and 69 votes respectively.

Fogarty received support from Sydney University Sports and Fitness (SUSF) President Bruce Ross via an email ostensibly sent to the all the organisation’s clubs and mailing lists.

“It is important for the sporting community at the University that there are at least some Fellows of Senate who are prepared to support the principle that sport is an historic and integral part of the University,” the endorsement reads.

“In earlier years, we have sometimes had student Fellows of Senate who have been aggressively anti-sport.”

“We have never sought to influence the deliberations of Senate on particular issues but it is important that our interests be fairly represented.”

The email – sent approximately a fortnight before polls closed – states Fogarty had approached Ross for the endorsement, and includes a link to the online ballot and a statement written by Fogarty.

Fogarty attributed his landslide victory to “connecting with voters outside the ‘political sphere’.”

“Since my last Senate election in 2012 I’ve been working hard to build a network of students across all faculties who were outside the ‘political circle’ and were interested in being heard,” he said.

Fogarty told Honi he was wanted to ensure “more resources and smaller class sizes”, “[improving] the international ranking of the University” and “[supporting] the work of the university in providing accessible education for low SES students from diverse backgrounds, indigenous and female students.”

When asked about his stance on fee deregulation, Fogarty characterised it as a “very complex issue”.

“I believe education is a universal right, but education needs to be provided sustainably so that future generations can also have access to it,” he said.

The Returning Officer did not respond to several requests for comment at the time of publication.

Honi will continue to investigate the substance of the complaint against Fogarty.