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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

EXCLUSIVE: Change Party to file possible state or federal charges against Vision, Gator Party

Change Party claims its documents were illegally obtained, Vision Party claims public record laws were broken

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Just a day before UF Student Government elections, both major parties  — Change Party and Vision Party — are alleging the other broke state or federal laws after Change alleges one of its former affiliates, who defected to Vision, recorded and leaked Change’s files.

An anonymous email sent to The Alligator Sept. 24 contained a link to a copy of Change Party documents on the online file-sharing service Google Drive and recordings from Slack, the online messenger app. 

The drive contained personal images of members, conversations about Senate and documents about motions pertaining to legislation or private meetings. 

The email — sent from a burner account — stated “[a]ll files relate directly to business of the Student Senate and therefore are considered public record. The blatant corruption within this party cannot continue to go unchecked.” 

After having consulted with members of Change and legal counsel, Change claims the allegations are false and will consider pursuing charges for having its private messages and files leaked. 

A Vision Party affiliate, who wants to remain anonymous due to potential legal and social backlash, told The Alligator they believed Change broke public record laws by not submitting documents as requested — they noted the Slack recordings stood as proof of conversations about ‘business related manners’ not being sent over. 

Change Party believes there are several legal issues at hand — including possible espionage charges, cybersecurity violations and two-party consent laws being violated. 

Anonymous Vision Party affiliates claim Change has violated public records requests, and the recorded Slack and Google Drive showcase that.

Change Party’s statement 

Change Party sent a press release to The Alligator addressing the Sept. 29 political advertisement posted by Gator Party and said internal and private communications from Change were maliciously posted on an opponent's Instagram account. 

“Upon further investigation, it has come to our attention that members of the opposition parties have engaged in activities to obtain and leak sensitive material that blatantly disregards the rules and regulations governing our democratic process and implicate violations of state and federal statutes,” Change wrote. 

Change said it is fully cooperating with relevant authorities to ensure a thorough investigation is done and, if necessary, will pursue appropriate legal consequences for the individuals involved. 

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“This attempt to subvert this fundamental principle cannot and will not be tolerated,” the party wrote in the release. 

Change said it will call upon all students to remain vigilant and engaged in the democratic process, and want to foster an environment where ideas are debated openly and where the democratic rights of every student are safeguarded. 

Vision Party’s statement 

Vision Party’s president and co-founder Saketh Damera sent a previous public comment to The Alligator that said Vision party and its affiliates have been attacked, harassed, lied about and slandered. 

“When your mission is to create a student government focused on people over politics, it is discouraging to hear constant hate toward you and your goals,” Damera said. “Expected, but still unfortunate. However, what I want to make known is that it’s very easy to slip into that same pattern of hate and political speech — Vision Party will not engage.” 

Damera said Vision’s mission is beyond politics, stagnancy and partisanship. He said Vision is built for the students and no one else.  

Change believes further issues arose after a registered political advertisement published on Gator Party’s Instagram account leaked internal Slack communication through a screenshot. 

The public record requests

An anonymous source sent The Alligator copies of the PRR’s submitted over the Spring and Summer term against Change. 

Some requests pertained to electronic communications and documents from members of  Change referencing motions documents, or communications referencing conversations of approving or falling Gator Party affiliated nominees.

Anonymous sources within Vision Party believe Change has not fulfilled the public record laws, and the recordings in the Slack and drive prove there were various records or communications that had not been turned over. 

Judiciary Chairperson Jonathan C. Stephens (Change-District D) said Change has complied with Florida Public Records laws since its establishment in Fall 2021. 

Stephens noted the recent public record requests were fulfilled through a rigorous process by contacting Senators and other related officials, and clarifying any discrepancies through the SG Advising and Operations office to ensure all records were accurate for the recipient. 

“The Gator-Vision affiliates continue to bring frivolous claims that only serve to create a facade that obscures the truest intentions of Change Caucus,” Stephens wrote. 

This is a developing story, check back for updates. 

Contact Vivienne Serret at vserret@alligator.org. Follow them on Twitter @vivienneserret.

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Vivienne Serret

Vivienne Serret is a UF journalism and criminology senior, reporting for The Alligator's university desk as the student government reporter and managing editor for The Florida Political Review. She loves debating, lifting at the gym and singing.


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