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The UNC Board of Governors, diversity and politics

The N.C. House voted unanimously late Wednesday to place Reginald “Reggie” Holley on the UNC Board of Governors.

But that unanimous vote came after a sprawling and sometimes heated debate.

That’s because Holley, a Republican lobbyist who many legislators know well, is in many ways exactly who lawmakers would like to see on the board of governors. A Black first generation college graduate, Holley founded his own business and has worked in state government and politics.

Reginald R. Holley

But he is also a Republican lobbyist — the sixth current or former lobbyist on a board dominated by conservatives with strong connections to the General Assembly’s GOP leadership.

Democrats have for years decried the lack of gender, racial and political diversity of the board, whose members are chosen by the GOP dominated House and Senate.

Even with the addition of Holley, the 24-member board has just three black members (the other two are Darrel Allison and Pearl Burris-Floyd, who have their own histories as lobbyists).

It also has just five women.

None of the members of the board are openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

All but five of the board’s members are Republican — and the non-GOP members are unaffiliated.

There are no Democrats.

Critics have for years noted that as the board has become less politically diverse it has become more antagonistic toward groups and people not in step with conservative political orthodoxy. Examples range from academic centers and university faculty to student groups and top university leadership.

Public conflicts with political overtones led former UNC System President Margaret Spellings — who was Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush — to step down from that position last year, followed by UNC Chancellor Carol Folt. A rash of chancellor resignations has led to a situation in which four of the UNC system’s 17 campuses are operating with interim chancellors even as the board searches fo the next president of the system. The political environment is such that lawmakers and Board of Governors members themselves are openly speculating that Tim Moore, the politically divisive Speaker of the N.C. House, will ultimately get the position.

With all of that in mind, Democrats argued Wednesday the process of choosing members of the board of governors should be reformed to prevent political conflicts of interest. Diversity should also be a strong consideration in choosing future members of the board, they said, which should look a lot more like the university system it represents.

During Wednesday’s debate on Holley’s nomination, Rep. Donna McDowell White praised him personally and said she believes he will add to the diversity of the board.

“I think in most scales, when we determine diversity, African-American is still on the list,” White said.

“I love Reggie’s bald head,” White said. “And it is truly African-American.”

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UNC Board of Governors nominee moves forward without facing committee questions

The House is scheduled to vote on the appointment of Reginald R. Holley to the UNC Board of Governors today, following a favorable report from the House Rules Committee Tuesday.

Holley did not attend the committee meeting, despite several lawmakers saying they were told Holley would attend and answer any questions they may have.

Reginald R. Holley

“Usually in the normal election process they will come in and answer a few questions or they’ll come by and introduce themselves so we can ask them then if we want to,” said House Minority Leader Daren Jackson (D-Wake). “That hasn’t happened. There are a number of things I would like to have asked him.”

There is currently an interim UNC System President and interim chancellors at four of the UNC system’s 17 campuses (ECU, Fayetteville State, UNC-Chapel Hill and the UNC School of the Arts.). The board is going to have to make some import leadership decisions quickly, Jackson said — and it would be nice to know where Holley stands on how those decisions should be made.

The exits of former UNC President Margaret Spellings, former UNC Chancellor Carol Folt and former ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton came shrouded in controversy after conflicts with the board of governors.

House Minority Leader Darren Jackson (D-Wake)

“I’d like to know o know what thoughts he had on that,” Jackson said. “I’d like to know what he’s looking for in the next leader of the university system. I think those are fair questions I’d like to get answered.

Jackson said he didn’t know Holley and has only  “seen him around the building” in his role as a lobbyist.

That, he said, is its own problem.

If elected, Holley would be the sixth current or former lobbyist on the current 24-member board of governors (the others are Tom Fetzer, Thom Goolsby, Darrell Allison, Pearl Burris-Floyd and David Powers).

“Lobbyists shouldn’t be allowed to be on the board of governors,” Jackson said. “When you have people who are dependent on the Speaker and the Pro Tem to get legislation moving and the Speaker and the Pro Tem are dependent on PAC fundraising and things like that. And then you’re going to put lobbyists on the board of governors? You can’t have an independently thinking, independently operating board of governors that way. They’re just going to be an extension of the General Assembly. And that is not the purpose.”

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Report: Challenges persist in use of pretrial justice tools

Pretrial justice policies that move courts away from cash bail and pretrial detention are spreading, according to a new report from the Pretrial Justice Institute. But they aren’t always being used properly.

The practices are in place in some of North Carolina’s largest counties but are still struggling to make headway in some of its smallest. A state panel began discussions last year on how to tackle the problem in a more organized way.

From the report, which finds many states and jurisdictions struggling to do the same:

Some results show promising improvements. Court reminder systems are an example of an effective strategy that promotes the goal of court appearance and respects the principle of least restrictive conditions; three out of four counties reported having some type of court date reminder system. Many areas report efforts to respond to people’s behavioral health needs so that they do not enter the criminal justice system; 71 percent of counties with a pre-arrest/pre-booking program reported having a program with a mental health focus and 46 percent had a program focused on substance use needs.

At the same time, the responses show how very difficult it is to implement pretrial justice policies that move away from money-based detention, and this Scan presents an opportunity to pause and re-evaluate practices and how they are implemented. In some areas, for example, policies designed to reduce criminal justice system involvement were in place but were not necessarily used in practice. Ninety-one percent of counties stated that citation release was available, but only about half (53 percent) said that all or most law enforcement agencies used the process “regularly.” Not quite half (47 percent) of counties reported conducting ability to pay inquiries in an attempt to prevent money-based detention. From a broader angle, many counties did not have a dedicated stakeholder group to review and discuss pretrial justice (49 percent) or offer critical training to judges, prosecutors or defense attorneys (40 percent or more).

The last decade has brought unprecedented attention and resources to pretrial justice reform, the report said. That’s meant serious progress.

“The number of state and county-level working groups, commissions, bills, and lawsuits focused on pretrial justice which have come forward across the country in just the last five years outnumber those in the prior 25 years combined,” the report said.”And yet, based on five surveys of practice — one every decade since the 1970s — we still have drastic justice by geography. ”

Some particular areas of concern from the report:

• Challenges outside of high-density areas: Almost 40 percent of low density counties were not able to conduct first appearance hearings within 24 hours. Middle- and low-density counties were less likely to report having options available to the judicial officer at first appearance, such as release on recognizance or release on unsecured bond.

• Using pretrial assessment tools inappropriately: The use of pretrial assessment tools continues to expand; two out of three counties reported using a pretrial assessment tool (also noted as “pretrial risk assessment” in the Scan). However, assessment tools require maintenance and administrator training to ensure that they are used as intended. Half of counties used the tools to set monetary bond, thereby reinforcing money as the key factor in release. Nearly three out of four counties (73 percent) that had a pretrial assessment tool reported using them to make the “release or detain” decision, which raises legal concerns. The detention decision should be made through a separate, rigorous hearing with full due process protections, where the government must prove by a standard of clear and convincing evidence that no conditions of release would reasonably assure the safety of the public or an individual person. It is not a decision that should be based simply on probable cause and an assessment score. Moreover, less than half of counties (45 percent) with pretrial assessment tools reported having validation studies to ensure continuing accuracy with regard to court appearance and public safety.

• Due process protections are absent at critical decision points: More than half of all counties (53 percent) said that defense attorneys did not meet with clients before first appearance, and only 45 percent said attorneys were present at first appearance. Research shows that the early presence of counsel is associated with greater rates of pretrial release. When a decision to detain without bail is made at first appearance, only 56 percent of counties indicated that there was a follow-up detention hearing. Only 26 percent of counties had a process to automatically review the case of anyone detained due to an inability to afford monetary bond.

• Lack of data on basic pretrial justice measures: No matter what strategy or tool a jurisdiction undertakes to improve its pretrial justice system, gathering, analyzing, and sharing basic pretrial justice measurements are necessary to understand how changes in practice change outcomes. At a minimum, jurisdictions should know the measurements reflecting the three goals of pretrial justice: maximizing pretrial liberty, court appearance and public safety. More often than not, jurisdictions did not have these measures.

• Pretrial release rates (pretrial liberty): Only 34 percent of responding counties knew their pretrial release rate, 30 percent said their county did not know the rate, and 36 percent were unsure.

• Court appearance rates: Only 28 percent knew their court appearance rate, defined as the percentage of individuals who are released pretrial who make all court appearances, or alternatively, the percentage of all pretrial court hearings where the accused person appeared. Thirty-six percent knew the inverse of the court appearance rate, failure-to-appear rate, defined as the percentage of people who are released pretrial who failed to appear for at least one court hearing, or alternatively, the percentage of all pretrial court hearings where the person failed to appear.

• Public safety rates: With regard to public safety rates, only 22 percent of counties knew the percentage of individuals who do not have a new charge filed during the pretrial period, and 29 percent knew the percentage of individuals who do not have a new arrest during the pretrial period.

 

Read the full survey report here.

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Neo-Confederate groups to rally in Pittsboro this weekend

George Randall of the League of the South at a rally in Pittsboro in September (Photo by Daniel Hosterman)

A number of Neo-Confederate groups plan to rally in Pittsboro on Saturday to protest the Chatham County Board of Commissioners’ decision to remove a Confederate monument from in front of the county courthouse.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is warning that a number of potentially dangerous groups will be among those demonstrating.

From the SPLC:

Some of the entities listed below are SPLC-designated hate groups, while others are considered “heritage,” paleo-libertarian or “constitutional” groups. All of these groups openly embrace neo-Confederate principles, opting to glorify the darker parts of American history.

  • League of the South (LOS) is an SPLC-designated hate group that positioned itself as the primary defender of the Confederate battle flag after the June 17, 2015 massacre of nine black parishioners at Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Additionally, SPLC’s Hatewatch blog recently linked LOS to what began as a small Facebook campaign designed to keep Confederate monuments in place. The group quickly grew to more than 200 ardent, secretive separatists planning to make the South a separate nation.
  • The Hiwaymen will participate according to an October 13 Facebook rant by one of its most vocal members, Billy Sessions. The Hiwaymen are a reactionary right-wing group that flock to various far-right protests, often focusing on large, well-publicized rallies like the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August, 2017 and an August, 2018 far-right rally in Portland, Oregon.
  • The Virginia Flaggers who, after the Chatham County Commissioner’s statue decision, erected a Confederate flag across the street from a middle school named after a North Carolina slave. The Flaggers joined a number of organizations that protested retailers, county and state governments removing Confederate emblems and merchandise after Dylann Roof killed nine African American church members in South Carolina in 2015.
  • ACTBAC North Carolina is a pro-Confederate group the SPLC listed as a hate group in 2016 and 2017. While not currently listed as a hate group, ACTBAC NC has been a fixture at the Pittsboro demonstrations, and along with the Virginia Flaggers, have erected three Confederate banners in the Pittsboro area.

League of the South member Jessica Reavis was arrested at a previous rally in Pittsboro on October 5  and charged with carrying a concealed gun and carrying a concealed weapon.

The anti-racist group Chatham Takes Action has announced a counter-protest mach from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“On Saturday, the community will come together for a march, rally, and community meal, where we will affirm that Pittsboro is No Place For Hate,” the group said in a press release this week. “In partnership with organizers across the region, including those who organized the Hate Free Hillsborough march and rally, we intend to make a show of strength and power in the face of yet another Confederate/white supremacist rally planned for the same day.”

The march will go from Main Street Station on East Street around the Historic County Courthouse and to the Blair Building lot, according to the group.

Armed Ku Klux Klan members demonstrated in Hillsborough in late August, where they were quickly outnumbered by counter-protesters.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department announced they would arrest KKK members who carried guns at the demonstration but as of this week no arrests have been made.

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Another lobbyist nominated for UNC Board of Governors seat

Next week the N.C. House Rules committee will consider a replacement for Rob Bryan, who is exiting the UNC Board of Governors to take Dan Bishop’s seat in the N.C. Senate.

The nominee for the seat, Reginald R. Holley, is a politically well-connected Republican from Brunswick County. He served as Deputy State Director for former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole and is a former Director of the State Youth Council for the North Carolina State Department of Administration.

Reginald R. Holley

He is also a registered lobbyist. That isn’t unique on the board — five other members are current or former lobbyists (Tom Fetzer, Thom Goolsby, Darrell Allison, Pearl Burris-Floyd and David Powers).

For the 2019 term, Holley’s clients include Partners for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, Inc., a conservative “school choice” organization that has pushed for expanding private school vouchers in the state.

Partners for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, Inc. is part of a well funded triad of organizations — along with Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina and North Carolina Citizens for Freedom in Education IE PAC — that have shared the same Raleigh address and and staff members. Until last year Board of Governors member Darrell Allison was president of the Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, for which Holley also lobbied.

Holley’s 2019 term clients also include the Carolina Small Business Development Fund, Judd K. Roth Real Estate Development, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association and CT Solutions LLC.

Holley has also lobbied for the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, Citizens for Community Action NC and the North Carolina Bail Agents Association.

House Minority Leader Darren Jackson (D-Wake) took to twitter to criticize the nomination the method by which UNC board of governors members are chosen.