Raleigh’s News & Observer reported over the weekend about an ethical issue that’s arisen for former Raleigh mayor and Republican party boss Tom Fetzer in his role as a member of the UNC Board of Governors. It turns out that Fetzer – a member of the board’s hardcore right wing – has been meddling in the issue of the proposed combination of UNC Health Care and Charlotte-based Carolinas HeathCare System after he recused himself because of a conflict of interest. This is from the story in the N&O:
“UNC board member Tom Fetzer, a health care lobbyist, set off the spark Thursday when he questioned the legality of the proposed partnership between UNC Health Care and Charlotte-based Carolinas HealthCare System. Fetzer’s challenge prompted the board’s leaders to advise their colleague to stay out of the matter because he has a conflict of interest.
In a thinly-veiled admonition that Fetzer may have crossed the line, he was asked by email to ‘refrain from engaging in further action related to the UNC Health Care matter’ even as the note acknowledged he had rightly recused himself from the board’s activities on the partnership.
The board will next ask the State Ethics Commission for advice on Fetzer’s ethics conflict.”
It’s hard to see how Fetzer’s behavior could be determined to be anything other than inappropriate by ethics officials (or anyone else paying attention). Earth to Tom Fetzer: “recuse” means to actually remove yourself from the consideration of a matter – not just to do it part of the time or when you feel like it.
But, of course, the very fact that Fetzer is even on the board in the first place ought to have long ago been determined to be inappropriate. Fetzer is big-time lobbyist for a bevy of high-profile clients. He gets paid big bucks to get people like Phil Berger and Tim Moore to help those clients. How can anyone in their right mind believe this fact doesn’t enter into his mental calculus when Berger and/or Moore and other state legislators make plain their desired outcomes on matters involving UNC?
Add to this the fact that the guy is also a lobbyist for, among others, the alcohol and tobacco industries and was a lobbyist in 2017 for what many rightfully consider to be gambling interests (i.e. the fantasy sports industry) and his presence on the UNC Board of Governors is rendered all the more inappropriate.
Let’s hope state ethics officials promptly inform Fetzer that he’s way out of line and that the whole experience causes a general reconsideration by all involved about any official involvement on Fetzer’s part with the university system or any other public body.