Connect UMSU vice-president finance and operations candidate Tino Hove has been reinstated in the executive campaign after being sidelined for three days.
Hove — who was on staff with the Manitoban as an audio associate until nominations for the 2020 UMSU general election closed in mid-February — was disqualified Friday after the office of the chief returning officer (CRO) found he had intimidated a volunteer supporting Our UMSU.
Hove appealed and, after the judicial board spent several hours reviewing the matter Sunday, was reinstated and instead issued a total penalty of 10 demerits.
“I think it was a fair decision and I respect the decision by the judicial board,” Hove said Monday.
His disqualification followed a Feb. 24 incident in the arts lounge when he is alleged to have “acted aggressively” toward the volunteer during a dispute over campaign materials, namely a roll of masking tape. The volunteer reported feeling “intensely shaken and intimidated ,” according to the CRO ruling.
The CRO determined that Hove “displayed a willingness to intimidate and pressure a different [slate’s] volunteer into confessing to a mistake they did not commit, thereby giving up campaign materials due to fear of intimidation.”
The ruling continues that “in trying to reason with the office of the CRO, Tino repeatedly pressured the [deputy returning officer (DRO)] into agreeing with his claims, additionally threatening legal action to Our UMSU and the volunteer should the allegation be ruled as legitimate.”
The judicial ruling, which replaces the initial CRO decision, did not dispute the findings but replaced the penalties from disqualification with five demerits for each incident.
Hove welcomed the decision and said that between the initial incident and the following complaint, “Everyone involved got emotional very quickly.”
“I do believe that it was an appropriate action,” he said. “The initial severity, we realize, was in haste and there were a lot of emotions involved.”
“The way it was handled initially just came off adversarial,” he said, “which I don’t believe was the intention of Our UMSU, nor was it my intention or [the intention of] the office of the CRO.”
Our UMSU presidential candidate Samantha Tumlos, who is one of four people listed as a complainant, said her concern remained with their volunteer, saying “At end of day, our priority is still to ensure that the volunteer is comfortable and is able to come to terms with what happened.”
“On our end, we definitely would be open to any sort of a conversation — even for us on behalf of the volunteer — and try to see if we could restore any relationships that were damaged in the process,” she said.
“But at the same time, we also want to respect the wishes of our volunteer and also respect the fact that they experienced something negative. We want it to be as supportive as possible.”
Upon learning of the reversal, a student in the faculty of arts — who requested anonymity — questioned the message it sends, saying “I think that the people on the board didn’t take the complaint seriously enough.”
They noted that the five demerits for a harassment complaint are less than the 10 issued to candidates who fail to attend mandatory meetings, saying “I think that the fact that five demerits were given for harassment is kind of crazy.”
The entire Connect UMSU slate was issued 15 demerits each on Feb. 23 after missing the all-candidates meeting and Hove was handed another 10 two days later after failing to attend another meeting. If any candidate receives 50 demerits they are disqualified.
The office of the CRO issued a statement Monday saying it “respects all decisions made by the judicial board and respects the right for the candidate to return to the election. We wish to move forward with respect for the candidate and their right to run in a fair and open election.”
The statement points out that the CRO issued 15 demerits for each infraction, which pushed Hove beyond the 50 threshold.
The ruling released by the CRO last week found that a volunteer from the Our UMSU slate, who wishes to remain anonymous, felt aggressively intimidated by Hove after an incident where Hove accused the volunteer of taking Connect UMSU campaign materials. The volunteer alleged Hove “invaded my personal space” and cornered them in the arts lounge.
The Connect UMSU team and Hove contested the content of the complaint and the ruling, saying they did not believe the claim of intimidation was justified.
“Besides me just being a tall male of colour asking her [for masking tape], I don’t see where intimidation could have happened,” said Hove Friday.
Connect UMSU’s campaign manager Nicholas Mikolajek and Hove in turn accused the office of the CRO and the Our UMSU slate of making “wild claims that have no supporting evidence” while accusing the office of bias.
They also disputed the ruling’s claim that Hove threatened legal action against both Our UMSU and the slate’s student volunteer, saying they told the CRO and DRO only that they would explore their legal avenues but made no such threat.
Mikolajek and Hove said they have contacted external legal counsel, student advocacy and the office of human rights and conflict management to evaluate their options.
“I find it very disturbing that the office of the CRO of a student union finds it threatening when a student is looking to use the resources available to them in a case that is brought up against them,” Hove said. “That is a disturbing fact in itself.”
Our UMSU had requested an apology from Hove in their complaint. On Monday, Hove said a mediation is in process, adding that “All of this is being done in good faith on all sides.”
Polls for the UMSU election open on Wednesday. Voting continues until Thursday afternoon.