(Paul Chesser, Liberty Headlines) Records obtained by Liberty Headlines show the chancellors of the two largest public universities in North Carolina did not vote in favor of a September 2016 decision by the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Council of Presidents to remove its sports championships from the state for 2016-2017, to punish Tar Heel businesses and residents over House Bill 2 (the “transgender bathroom bill”).
The law was repealed at the end of March this year, and the ACC has reinstated its events planned for North Carolina for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Email correspondence between members of the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina System revealed that University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt, and North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson, both opposed — as voting members of the Council of Presidents — the ACC’s September action to wage economic warfare against the state that hosts its headquarters. The clear evidence was disclosed in a message from Louis Bissette, chairman of the UNC System Board of Governors, to fellow member Henry Hinton.
“They did not vote for it!” wrote Bissette, late in the day on Sept. 16th.
Officials with UNC and NC State, and the chancellors themselves, have gone to great lengths to hide from the public how they voted with regard to the ACC decision. They claimed the Council of Presidents members were sworn to secrecy about their deliberations and the nature of their votes, even though they had no binding contractual obligation that said so. Duke University did disclose how President Richard Brodhead voted in favor of the measure, casting doubt on UNC’s and NC State’s claims.
The emails between the Board of Governors members — which also passed through Gov. Pat McCrory’s email account — were exchanged in the days that immediately followed the ACC’s announcement, amid speculation and curiosity in the public, the media, and even among uninformed board members, who wondered whether Folt and Woodson voted to penalize the state that pays their salaries.
The string of emails was initiated by a missive from a trustee at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, Dennis Burgard, to UNC System President Margaret Spellings. His message, striking an angry tone, presumed (either by misinformation or his own assumption) that both Folt and Woodson voted in favor of the ACC’s decision.
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“I am appalled that that two highly paid State employees intentionally acted to cause financial harm to the taxpayers of North Carolina,” Burgard wrote to Spellings.
“It is incumbent upon you to explain to the taxpayers of North Carolina why they should continue to employ these Chancellors who each earn a salary of over one half million dollars…,” he added. “It appears these employees have violated their fiduciary responsibilities and have forgotten who pays their salary.”
Burgard forwarded his message to Wilmington businessman Parks Griffin, a top McCrory donor and ally, who forwarded it to the then-Governor. The email then reached Hinton, the UNC Board of Governors member (whose term expired this year).
“Is he [Burgard] saying they both voted for this?” Hinton wrote. “There has been no confirmation of it anywhere that I’ve seen. Only Broadhead (sic) at Duke has come forward and admitted to voting for it. I would be very disappointed and surprised if they did.”
Hinton’s message, forwarded to Bissette by fellow UNC governor Harry Smith, elicited the response from the Chairman: “They did not vote for it!”
Media, donors and others were told by UNC and NC State officials that Folt’s and Woodson’s votes on the ACC decision were “bound” by confidentiality — despite the fact they work for public, taxpayer funded institutions — in the days and months that followed the controversial announcement.
“The confidentiality agreement is a verbal agreement,” wrote NC State executive director of university relations Fred Hartman in a November email. “It is the normal business practice of the ACC Council of Presidents to enter into a verbal agreement of confidentiality among members, as was the case for this meeting. Chancellor Woodson gave his commitment to the President’s Council and he intends to keep it.”
North Carolina journalists who cover UNC made initial inquiries about Folt’s and Woodson’s votes, but then immediately dropped it. Now the chancellors’ decisions are known.