By Keith Capstick
The appointed official running this year’s Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) election knows RSU staff a lot better than you’d expect.
The Eyeopener has discovered that Fatima Sajan, the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) for this year’s election, was part of a York University Federation of Students election with two members of the RSU committee that hired her.
The committee is made up of two full-time staff members employed by the RSU, the Executive Director of Communication and Outreach Gilary Massa, and the Internal Coordinator Casey Chu Cheong.
Sajan is in charge of mediating the election and enforcing the election bylaws, handing out demerit points and collecting and counting the ballots from voters.
According to an elections results page on York University’s website, Sajan and Massa were elected on to the York Federation of Students in 2006; Massa held a counsellor position at Vanier College while Sajan was a counsellor for Calumet College. Chu Cheong was the CRO for that election.
When asked about her relationship with Massa when they ran together in 2006 Sajan said, “I think I remember seeing her name and seeing her at one of the meetings… I didnt have much interaction with her at all.”
Sajan also said that she wasn’t aware that Chu Cheong was the CRO responsible for the election. “Oh, okay well thats the first time I’m hearing it.” Sajan said.
When asked whether or not Massa knew Sajan during her time at York, she said, “I do know Fatima when she was at York, yes.”
According to the RSU election bylaws the CRO is supposed to be hired by the current RSU president in conjunction with an appropriate staff member, but current president Rajean Hoilett said it’s become common practice for executive staff members to do the hiring.
“It hasn’t been common practice [for the president to hire the CRO] for a while, but the executive committee ratifies the decision,” Hoilett said.
Massa maintained that Hoilett is able to appoint her with the duty of hiring the CRO, despite the election bylaws not explicitly reinforcing this.
“But [Hoilett]’s also able to appoint people on his behalf and usually because the president sometimes gets involved with particular candidates or elections,” said Massa.
Sajan confirmed that during the hiring process for her job as CRO she dealt exclusively with Massa and Chu Cheong.
“I don’t see what the concern is. I am qualified for this position,” Sajan said.
Sajan said that during the hiring process the only members of the RSU she dealt with were Chu Cheong and Massa. Sajan also confirmed that during the hiring process Hoilett was never present.
When asked whether or not he believed this relationship between Massa, Chu Cheong and Sajan created a conflict of interest for Sajan, Hoilett said, “ This is the first time I’m hearing about that. I’m not sure what the nature of their relationship is.”
Massa said she believes that Sajan was the best candidate for the job, and out of the four people who applied for the position she was the best choice.
“Not really,” said Massa when asked about the potential for conflict of interest. “[S]he’s a professional person, she interviewed like any other person and is not a Ryerson student so really has no stake in the election.”
The RSU election bylaws call for the CRO to work exclusively with the Internal Coordinator to hire the Deputy Returning Officer and coordinate advertising for the election.
When asked about the hiring process and her relationship with Sajan and Massa, Chu Cheong refused to comment on the record.
With files from Jackie Hong