Higher Ed, News

UNC Board of Governors to meet in “special session by conference call” following Silent Sam settlement

The UNC Board of Governors will meet on Friday Dec. 13  “special session by conference call,” the UNC System announced Tuesday.

The meeting comes in the wake of the controversial settlement in which the UNC System will give the Sons of Confederate Veterans the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam — along with $2.5 million.

Student and faculty groups at UNC-Chapel Hill and some members of the full board of governors oppose the deal.

Friday’s “special session” will include a closed session during which the board will hear a report from UNC System Interim President Bill Roper and UNC System General Counsel Tom Shanahan.

“Due to its conflicting with commencement activities, this meeting has been on the calendar but as ‘optional, only if necessary,” said UNC System spokesman Jason Tyson.

The chairman designated the meeting a special session last month, Tyson said.

Committee meetings on Thursday, before the full board conference call, will include the Budget and Finance, University Governance and Personnel and Tenure committees.

The University Governance committee will hold a closed session that includes a legal affairs report from Shanahan and the approval of the closed session minutes from the board’s meetings of Nov. 14 and Nov. 27. The closed session on the 27th was the meeting in which the Silent Sam settlement was approved by that committee. A full vote of the board was never taken.

The board is also expected to vote on making Interim UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz the next full chancellor at the school. The Personnel and Tenure committee will discuss an “executive personnel matter” in closed session Thursday.

Higher Ed, News

Goolsby reprimanded by NC State Bar

The North Carolina State Bar has reprimanded Thom Goolsby for professional misconduct in his work as an attorney.

Goolsby is a former North Carolina State Senator who now serves on the UNC Board of Governors.

Thom Goolsby

The reprimand, issued this summer and reported in the bar’s Winter 2019 journal, is “a written form of discipline more serious than an admonition issued in cases in which an attorney has violated one or more provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct and has caused harm or potential harm to a client, the administration of justice, the profession, or a member of the public, but the misconduct does not require a censure.”

The reprimand stems from a personal injury case in which Goolsby represented a client from January 2016 until November 2018.

The reprimand letter lays out the details of Goolsby’s misconduct in the matter:

“Over the course of the representation, your firm procrastinated and did very little work on her case. You also regularly failed to respond to her requests for information or to meet with you. Finally, when S.W. expressed frustration at your firm’s lack of work on her case, you terminated the representation right before the end of the statute of limitations. As the comments of Rule 1.3 note, “Perhaps no professional shortcoming is more widely resented than procrastination. A client’s interests often can be adversely affected by the passage of time or the change of conditions. In extreme instances, as when a lawyer overlooks a statute of limitations, the client’s legal position may be destroyed.” By failing to provide the services for which you were retained and failing to promptly work on S.W.’s case, you failed to act with reasonable diligence in violation of Rule 1.3. By failing to communicate with S.W. regarding the status of her case or respond to her requests for meetings, you violated Rule 1.4(a) and (b ). And by failing to take steps to protect your client’s interests upon termination of the representation, you violated Rule 1.16( d).

You are hereby reprimanded by the North Carolina State Bar for your professional misconduct. The Grievance Committee trusts that you will heed this reprimand, that it will be remembered by you, that it will be beneficial to you, and that you will never again allow yourself to depart from adherence to the high ethical standards of the legal profession.

 

As Policy Watch reported in September, the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office said it is looking into Goolsby’s operation of an “online financial education” company that might run afoul of a state order barring him from the financial services industry,

Goolsby left the state Senate in 2014, shortly after the collapse of an investment company he’d run with a partner since 2010. Former clients of the company filed a lawsuit in 2013 in which they claimed to have lost tens of thousands of dollars in risky investments to which they said they never consented. Eventually, the state dissolved the company and revoked Goolsby’s investment adviser registration.

In a consent order outlining an agreement with the Securities Division of the Secretary of State’s office, Goolsby and his partner were barred from seeking registration as investment advisers, investment adviser representatives, dealers or salesmen for 10 years.

Two securities law experts who examined the business’ offerings at Policy Watch’s request said Goolsby could be violating the spirit – and potentially the letter – of the order, issued in April 2014 by the office of the North Carolina Secretary of State.

So far no action has been taken by the Secretary of State’s office on that matter and the office has had no further comment.

Goolsby did not comment on the order or his new business.

He also could not be reached for comment on the Bar’s more recent reprimand.

Higher Ed, News

UNC-Chapel Hill Faculty Council, Campus Safety Commission condemn Silent Sam settlement

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Campus Safety Commission has issued a strong condemnation of the controversial settlement that gives the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam to the Sons of Confederate Veterans — along with $2.5 million.

The statement, issued Friday afternoon, acknowledges that the statue was a constant danger while on campus and expresses relief it will not return to campus. But it also criticizes the deal with the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the way in which the UNC Board of Governors negotiated it.

From the statement:

We express our condemnation of the outcome of the settlement as well as the process that led to it. Specifically, we note:
The UNC System chose to settle a lawsuit that it no doubt would have won handily. The SCV’s ability to make a claim about the monument derived entirely from its purported ownership of the Monument. But the SCV did not own the monument. It argues that it came into ownership of the monument in January of 2018 when UNC breached some supposed “express condition” of the 1913 gift that the Monument remain on campus “forever.” That theory is invalid as a matter of North Carolina law, and transparently so.

Because the SCV’s lawsuit was so obviously groundless, there was no apparent reason to pay the SCV $2.5 million to settle it. Were the board of directors of a corporation to settle a case it plainly could have won, and authorize the payment of $2.5 million of the corporation’s money to do so, the members of the board of directors would face charges that they were breaching their fiduciary duty to the corporation. They would have to explain the real basis of their decision very persuasively if they wanted to avoid this.

Because the process that led to the disposition of the Monument was entirely secret, and because it was strategically announced the afternoon before Thanksgiving so as to hinder public discussion and scrutiny, the public knows no more about the real reasons for this settlement and payment than the groundless ones in the court documents.

We are therefore hard pressed to see the decision to hand $2.5 million to the SCV as anything but an endorsement by the UNC System of the SCV’s disturbing, historically inaccurate, white-supremacist agenda. This action is an affront to the UNC community and the larger public that highlights a betrayal of, and threat to, our community’s black and brown members. And it violates every principle for which this institution of higher learning stands.

 

The University, for its part, issued a “Frequently Asked Questions” document about the settlement Friday afternoon.

In several instances the document stresses that the UNC Board of Governors was responsible for the settlement and that campus-level leadership (and particularly Interim UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and the Board of Trustees) was not involved.

From the FAQ:

“Who approved the settlement?

Members of the Board of Governors negotiated and approved the settlement, which the Board approved through the Governance Committee following review by the North Carolina Attorney General’s office. An Orange County Superior Court Judge signed and entered the consent judgment. The settlement was not presented to the Interim Chancellor or to the Board of Trustees for approval.”

The FAQ also asserts that a trust agreement exists for the $2.5 million.

What are the details of the $2.5 million trust established as a part of the settlement?

There is a trust agreement between the UNC System, the Board of Governors and the SCV, and an independent trustee has the sole responsibility for disbursing funds according to the terms of that trust agreement. The purpose of the trust is the maintenance, display and preservation of the monument. The funds in the trust do not belong to and are not controlled by the SCV.

No such trust agreement has been made publicly available either by the UNC system or in court documents. Policy Watch and other media outlets have requested the trust agreement. The system has yet to fulfill that request — or requests for other details on the settlement and communications about it.

Both the FAQ and the Campus Safety Commission statement come one day after a mass protest of the settlement on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus and questions about the validity of the agreement — from community members, law experts and members of the board of governors itself.

On Friday afternoon the Faculty Executive Committee also met, strongly questioning the settlement. Students held a demonstration against the settlement during the meeting.

After aggressively questioning Guskiewicz  about the deal, the faculty council also passed a resolution condemning it.

“While we continue to support the permanent removal of the confederate monument known as Silent Sam from campus, we condemn the settlement that gives the statue and $2.5 million to the Sons of Confederate Veterans,” their resolution read. “Such a settlement supports white supremacist activity and therefore violates the university’s mission as well as its obligations to the state.”

 

 

Higher Ed, News

Students rally at UNC-Chapel Hill in wake of “Silent Sam” settlement

Students at UNC-Chapel Hill plan to protest today at the former site of the Silent Sam Confederate monument — a response to last week’s announcement that the UNC System will give the toppled statue to the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans, along with $2.5 million.

The protest, organized by the UNC Black Congress and UNC Black Student Movement, will begin at 1 p.m. at McCorkle Place, where the statue stood for more than 100 years before it was torn down by protesters last August.

Students, lawyers and community members are vowing the fight the settlement.

The UNC-Chapel Hill Undergraduate Executive Branch issued a statement last week condemning the agreement. Ashton Martin, undergraduate student body president, expanded on that in an interview with Policy Watch this week.

“What I’ve heard across campus this week is that students feel giving money of any amount really to an organization like this really just legitimizes their position,” Martin said. “It shows the university is backing down and saying we see this organization as something we’re afraid of. I don’t like that.

Martin said she and other students were also frustrated that they were told the university was in a holding pattern on the statue’s future but that student and community input would be important to deciding its future.

In fact, as revealed in an email from Sons of Confederate Veterans leader Kevin Stone to his group members, UNC Board of Governors members and state legislators had been working and negotiating with the group for months on what became the final agreement.

“As someone who’s been very involved with this issue to hear about this resolution the day before Thanksgiving, with no prior knowledge… it’s been frustrating,” Martin said. “And it’s becoming more frustrating as more information becomes available,”

Last week Interim UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz sent a brief message to students saying that the UNC System had announced the settlement, offering his “deepest appreciation” to the UNC Board of Governors for resolving the matter.

Martin said she and other student leaders have talked with Guskiewicz this week.

“He gathered a lot of people who had a lot of strong opinions about it and let us say our piece about it,” Martin said. “But I think the entire campus doesn’t really know what to believe and who knew what when on this. And the timing is terrible. It’s the last week of class. There are exams coming up. It’s really not conducive to getting anything done.”

The UNC System has yet to answer questions from Policy Watch regarding the details and timeline of the settlement, including basic explanations of how the $2.5 million trust will be structured.

In the letter to his fellow Sons of Confederate Veterans, Stone suggested the group would use the money to preserve the statue — but also part of it for a group headquarters. That would seem at odds with specific language in the settlement documents outlining that the money was to be used for the benefit of the statue.

“There are a lot of things about his letter that don’t seem to match up with how it was explained to us,” Martin said. “It’s hard to know what to believe at this point.”

Higher Ed

Podcast: A closer look at the conflicts, accusations and general chaos on the UNC Board of Governors

December is shaping-up to be a busy month for North Carolina’s higher education community.

Tuesday, December 10th marks the first meeting of the newly named East Carolina University Chancellor Search Committee. The 20-member search committee announced last week consists of ECU leaders, administrators, faculty, staff, as well as alumni and students tasked with finding a successor to former Chancellor Cecil Staton.

On Friday, December 13th the full UNC Board of Governors holds its final scheduled meeting of the year where they will take up the thorny issue of increases in student tuition and fees.

As Chapelboro.com reporter Brighton McConnell explained this week, UNC-Chapel Hill trustees are looking to the BOG to approve a three percent increase for the 2020-2021 school year.

Under the proposed plan, tuition for undergraduate students would increase by 3 percent, which would be a $211 increase for in-state students and a $1,026 increase for non-North Carolina residents. Both in-state and non-resident graduate students would see a $317 increase.

The UNC Board of Governors will also be trying to get back on track after a year that will be remembered for its conflicts, accusations and general chaos.

NC Policy Watch sat down with investigative reporter Joe Killian last week to discuss the many challenges facing the 25-member board charged with improving the quality of higher education across 17-campuses. Click below to listen to the full interview with Killian: