The UNC Board of Governors meets today to decide whether to pursue sanctions against two East Carolina University trustees who were recorded promising a student financial and political help if she ran for student government president.
The board’s University Governance Committee recommended the full board take no action after questioning the two trustees and board of trustees chairman Wednesday. That meeting left many unanswered questions, said several UNC Board of Governors members, and didn’t press the trustees enough about the content of their conversation with the student.
At issue: a recording of ECU Board of Trustee members Phil Lewis and Robert Moore meeting with a student who had previously run or student government president. If she ran again, the pair said on the tape, they could arrange for a professional campaign manager and finance her campaign as long as she kept the source of the money secret. The student recorded the lunch conversation, which Lewis and Moore first pursued, without their knowledge.
The two sought to replace the incumbent ECU student government president, Colin Johnson, who is a voting member of the board of trustees. Lewis and Moore have opposed a number of Johnson’s votes, going back to a contentious meeting wherein he was the swing vote in the election of a new of board chair. Vern Davenport, the current board chair, won the position 7-6 on the sharply divided board.
UNC Board of Governors member Marty Kotis participated in Wednesday’s University Governance Committee meeting via telephone and submitted a series of questions for Lewis and Moore. Committee chairman David Powers decided not to ask those questions, or read excerpts from transcripts of the recording, saying the members had already read the transcript and had enough information to make their decision.
Kotis disagreed and took to Twitter to say he plans to ask his questions Friday.
In an interview with Policy Watch this week, Kotis said it would seem obvious to most people the trustees should be removed — but it isn’t clear whether the board vote will go that way Friday.
“Things don’t happen here the way they would in the private sector,” Kotis said. “Which is a big point of frustration for me, personally. If it was up to me and this was the private sector, I’d suggest we have a complete change-over, some fresh blood in there. We’re not talking about the whole management team of ECU — this is an advisory board. If they’re not able to play nice and get along, I’d suggest changing it up. If I had a major problem like this with a bunch of managers all not getting along at one business unit, I’d change it up.”
Nobody would like to find out they’d been recorded without their knowledge, Kotis said — but the trustees are still responsible for the things they said and offered on the tape and have to answer for it.
Adam Schmidt, President of the UNC Association of Student Governments and an ex-officio member of the UNC Board of Governors, agreed.
“We have clear evidence that they were trying to influence a student election for their own personal interests,” Schmidt said. “If we ignore that evidence, if there is no consequence for this, then we are endorsing this behavior.”
The ECU Board of Trustees met Thursday. Lewis and Moore were not in attendance. The board was scheduled to meet Friday as well but postponed that meeting so that trustees could instead attend Friday’s full UNC Board of Governors meeting.
That meeting will be held Friday at 10 a.m. in the Board Room of the Center for School Leadership Development, 140 Friday Center Drive in Chapel Hill.
Policy Watch will be covering the meeting live. Readers can follow updates on the meeting via @JoekillianPW on Twitter.