“Sanctions have been improperly placed on me,” SGA presidential candidate says

“If the committee becomes aware of any campaign materials that have not been taken down, you will be taken off the ballot for the election.”This is the message SGA presidential candidate junior Kofi Mensah found when he checked his email on March 19.After accusations of Mensah exceeding the allotted campaign budget, the SGA Elections Committee issued a sanction requiring him to remove all campaign materials, which includes all posters and advertisements on the TV screens in the Davis Center, SGA senator Katie Rifkin said.”We had several [students and senators] approach us with concerns about the number of fliers,” Rifkin said. “It was enough that the committee thought it should be something to look into.”Mensah said he believes the sanctions are unfair and that he did not spend more than the $150 the SGA allows for campaigning.There was confusion after the SGA required Mensah to take down and hand in the posters he had put up before spring break because of “misleading language” that needed to be reworded.”I figured the SGA had the posters in their possession, I can no longer use them, they are no longer my campaign material, so it is no longer in my campaign budget — I had to make totally new ones,” Mensah said.However, Mensah said at the time of making new posters, he was unaware that the SGA Election Committee was still counting the old posters in his budget.On March 19, the committee e-mailed Mensah to inform him that these fliers would be considered in his total.”The committee has decided that the fliers that we asked you to return will be included in your campaign spending,” according to the email.The committee deducted the cost of all of the posters, even those that weren’t used, Mensah said.”Only about 10 percent of the fliers they have were ever used because I was going to put most of them up after break,” he said. “They were only up for about five days.”The Committee said that they believe the length of time the fliers were posted is irrelevant.”No matter how long they were available, simply ‘getting your name out’ is still construed as campaigning,” the e-mail from Rifkin said. “I know that in the Davis Center, fliers are taken down every week anyway, so your fliers being displayed publicly for four to five days is similar to this.”The opposing presidential candidate, Claire Chevrier, said that she was concerned in the first week and a half of campaigning because of how many posters Mensah had.”Everywhere I had one poster, Kofi had three,” she said. “I figured he had just done a lot of research and really just looked around for deals, but I found out that wasn’t the case. I was told that there was nowhere in Burlington he could have made that many copies and stayed under budget.”Furthermore, the committee said they felt Mensah had not accounted for all services and funds when submitting his receipts.”We explained [to him] that we had gotten the receipts back and we’ve seen some discrepancies,” Rifkin said. “We felt that not all the receipts were turned in either.” Mensah only turned in the receipts for the new fliers and some of the older receipts, he said.”I felt there was no longer a need to keep track of [the old receipts for the old fliers]  because they were no longer a part of my campaign, they were for the old campaign,” Mensah said.Mensah said he used his own computer, printer, paper and ink to create some of the new fliers and said that the amount the SGA claims it would have cost him to produce the fliers is too high.Mensah said he believes that the committee should use the cost of his paper and ink cartridges rather than the quote from the print and mail center.”They aren’t going off the receipts, they are going off the amount of fliers they have and the quote they got from the print and mail center,” Mensah said. “Most I printed by personal computer. I had access to my own personal printer and paper and I used them toward my campaign — how is that wrong?”The Committee factors in services when calculating the total expenditures, so even free services are considered part of the candidates’ $150 budget, Rifkin said.”It’s to level the playing field, so that even if you do get a donation or something doesn’t cost as much for you as a candidate, you still need to factor it to its full price,” she said.The Elections Committee held a mandatory meeting with the candidates at the beginning of the election to discuss rules and regulations for campaigning, she said. “The rules are given out and they sign a waiver that says ‘I understand the rules and regulations.'”Chevrier said she was aware of the rule after asking if she could use free copies that she had been given by UPS.  “If I didn’t ask, I wouldn’t have necessarily known — but it would have been a hasty assumption,” Chevrier said.