The Student Senate presidential race kicked off amid a flurry of controversy on April 25, with accusations flying of racism, dishonesty, and a corrupt Senate.
The race was initially between senators Donald Allen and Wolfgang Tattenbach. Tattenbach dropped out of the race on April 26.
The Student Senate conducted an open forum meeting, at which the candidates gave their platform speeches and opened the floor to questions from other members of senate, club representatives, and students.
But as the questioning pushed on, both candidates had a turn in the hot seat.
One member questioned Allen’s proposal at an earlier meeting to help market for MCTC through the use of his company, questioning his motivation for such a move.
“I will abstain and let the company handle it,” said Allen. “It’s to help the student body, to help MCTC’s branding… there’s no conspiracy, there’s no deeper meaning.”
Tattenbach also rocked the boat when Veteran’s Club President Matt Johnson asked what Allen would do to take care of veterans at MCTC, and honor those who do.
“We have no soldiers here. We have students,” said Tattenbach. “I believe that any type of prize is truly nominal to the measure of accomplishment that comes from doing something free of a prize.”
The hot seat turned scorching when Sarah Volstad, Director of Legislative Affairs on the senate, raised the question of the candidates’ criminal history and trouble with the law.
In a frank admission, Tattenbach took the opportunity to “air my dirty laundry.”
“Approximately five and a half years ago, I was arrested with 71 pounds of weed that I had been growing in a national park.”
“It was my first offense. I was given an opportunity to reform my life, seeing as though there were no weapons and I completely cooperated,” said Tattenbach. Tattenbach was given extended probation in exchange for his cooperation.
To the same question, Allen stated, “I will not air restraining orders, trouble with the law, or anything like that at this forum.”
Allen challenged the questioning, claiming it was out of order, and requested Tara Martinez, Director of Student Life, take note.
Sara Volstad contested Allen’s claim. “I am being consistent with MSCSA,” said Volstad, referring to the Minnesota State College Student Association Spring General Assembly packet, which recommends asking questions about criminal history.
However, after being pressed, Allen admitted to his own past legal issues.
“The Secret Service came in… and froze $27 million in assets,” said Allen, referring to iNetGlobal, a company he previously worked for. “[I was told] if I was laid off I received $250,000. I went to collect my money several times and a restraining order was placed on me.”
iNetGlobal was raided and investigated by the Secret Service and the Treasury Department in Feb. 2010, on suspicion of running a Ponzi scheme, according to the Star Tribune. There is no indication that Allen was implicated in the conduct subject to investigation.
The restraining order, filed in April 2010 by Allen’s former employer, Steven Renner, alleges posting “slanderous, libelous, and defamatory materials,” threats to “him and his business and his family,” and uninvited visits that “raised havoc” as the reason for filing the order, according to the affidavit. Allen had no comment.
In the day that followed, the race became a battle.
Allen submitted a complaint to the administration and Student Senate, alleging that the questioning was racist and the election process did not follow the bylaws.
“I think there was some illegal questioning going on,” said Allen, stating that the senate questioning was an attempt to “slander and defame,” and was a “racialization of my run.”
“They were discriminatory,” said Allen. Referring to earlier elections for senators this semester, Allen said, “They were never asked any questions like that.”
Allen accused Martinez of a “lack of oversight,” stating, “This will be addressed and fixed pretty quickly.”
He further said that Senate had failed to follow the bylaws, which state that the election should be prominently advertised and the open forum moderated by a neutral party.
“You can’t change [the bylaws] for your personal convenience,” said Allen.
Allen contended that Volstad was not a neutral party, however, outgoing Student Senate President Brad Conley states, “[Volstad] wasn’t the chair of that part of the meeting.”
“I did not hear any questions that were slanderous, as those questions arose from public record,” said Conley. “Not once did I hear anything racially tinged.”
“I think that it’s responsible,” Conley said, speaking of the questioning, “People do that with other candidates we vote for, so why not this one?”
Conley added, “The questions were tough.”
When asked to confirm earlier statements in the open forum, Allen declined, stating, “Any mention of [iNetGlobal] will be catastrophic for the school and for City College News.”
Tattenbach dropped out of the race on April 26, stating that he “didn’t want to take part in negative politics.”
“[Allen] is borderline militaristic and divisive,” said Tattenbach. “He’s portraying himself in a totally different way [to students]. I believe it’s an injustice to the student body… to allow the public to decide on this facade.”
“I will never view the voting public as wrong, however I believe they’re being deceived,” said Tattenbach.
“It’s the only way I felt I could bring awareness,” said Tattenbach. “I was going to protest by withdrawing my name.”
A presidential race with two or more candidates is open to students in the T-Skyway. However, with Allen now running unchallenged, the vote closes down to Senate members and representatives only, requiring a two-thirds majority to elect him.
Tattenbach believes this will put the election to “the only audience he has truly expressed himself to.”
“[Allen] would need 31 votes in order to win,” said Conley.
If Allen fails to get the required majority of votes, an interim president must take the position. This may be the current president, the vice president, or an individual chosen by the Executive Board. Another election cannot be held until 45 days into the fall semester.
“[Tattenbach] is not quitting to be named interim,” said Conley. “He’s not interested in it.”
Due to the contentious nature of the election, four people will be assigned to oversee the ballot, “so there is absolutely no contest,” said Conley.
Additionally, in an unprecedented move, the senate will be asked to accept the vote afterwards.
“We’ve never had to do that before. Everybody knows there’s going to be cries of conspiracy,” said Conley.
The election will be held on Wednesday, May 2, during the 3 p.m. Senate meeting in the multipurpose room in the Helland Center. Updates will be posted on CityCollegeNews.com.