A student association election at Portland State University has sparked controversy due to the criminal record of one of the candidates.

The controversy began earlier this week when an unknown person posted fliers on the PSU campus, alleging that Tony Funchess, a well-known student leader running for president of the Associated Students of PSU, had prior convictions for statutory rape. Funchess is currently the ASPSU’s director of multicultural affairs. 

The Vanguard student newspaper reports it confirmed the allegations through court records. Funchess was convicted of attempted second degree rape and third degree sodomy. According to Oregon law, second degree rape involves a minor under the age of 14, and third degree sodomy involves a person under the age of 16.

Funchess responded to the fliers in an interview with the student paper. He said the convictions stemmed from two different relationships he had with partners who were underage. He characterized the relationships as consensual, and said he is still in a relationship with one of the women.

He said he did not think the convictions precluded him from effectively leading the student body.

“I have received so many ‘no’s’ because of my felony conviction,” he said in an interview with the Vanguard. “But every time I received no … I try to demonstrate, one, what recidivism looks like, and, two, what positive change looks like.”

Funchess declined an interview request from OPB.

“I appreciate the offer, but due to my academic and campaign schedule I do not forsee having the time to accommodate your request,” he wrote.

Funchess running as part of a slate of candidates called Step Up, Speak Out, Stand Together. PSU students have until April 23 to cast their vote in the election.