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Email: UNC leader will cease ECU dealings

Harry Smith.jpg

Harry Smith


By Kari Travis
Carolina Journal News Service

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The leader of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors reported in an email that he is recusing himself from communications involving East Carolina University.

“After consultation with my leadership team on the UNC Board of Governors, UNC System President Margaret Spellings and legal counsel, I have decided to completely remove myself from communications involving ECU matters and avoid having a presence on campus,” Harry Smith, the UNC board chairman and a graduate of ECU, wrote in the Nov. 9 email to Kieran Shanahan, chairman of the ECU board of Trustees.

The declaration follows reports from Carolina Journal and other publications about emails between Smith, ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton, and other ECU administrators over a student housing deal spearheaded by Smith that raised ethical questions. The emails showed strains between Smith and Staton, the reports indicated.

That narrative is false, Smith said, after a CJ report referred to the incident in connection with Staton’s reported intent to resign Jan. 1.

Staton denied he has accepted any resignation deal. But a week after Carolina Journal published a story about Staton’s reported resignation, and reports from other media outlets questioning Staton’s status with the university, UNC System officials have remained silent about Staton. Carolina Journal stands by its reporting.

In a Monday radio interview on WHRD in Greenville, Staton said he would like to make the results of his 360 personnel review, ordered by Spellings, available to the public. Carolina Journal has submitted a public records request for the document and asked Smith and Spellings Friday if the review would be released.

The file is private, and not for public release, Spellings said.

Smith referred the request to Matthew Brody, vice president and chief human resources officer at UNC, stating Brody could provide information, but refused to release it.

Smith declined to comment on Staton’s employment status in a Nov. 7 phone conversation with Carolina Journal, but adamantly stated he has no issue with the chancellor.

“There has clearly been an organized effort from a very small, but vocal group to create a false narrative, and it’s being done through petty, personal attacks intended to harm or malign me. The ECU Board of Trustees has stated that Chancellor Staton has their support and I fully respect their position,” Smith wrote in the Nov. 9 email.

Smith’s message came hours after the board’s regular meeting, where 10 chancellors received pay raises from members after almost three hours in closed session. The board also announced it would delay any decision on how to handle the fate of Silent Sam, the controversial Confederate statue illegally torn from its base on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus in August.

“Our role on the Board of Governors occasionally includes challenging campus decisions and policies in order to discern what’s best for our UNC System institutions. However, contrary to the false narrative being spread, I have always engaged the Board of Governors and others within the UNC System in a manner that was proper, transparent, and ethical. I continue to support the success of ECU and all of our institutions,” Smith concluded.

Carolina Journal News Service is provided by the John Locke Foundation of Raleigh.

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