Documents from the UNC System offered details on charges that two members of the ECU Board of Trustees tried influence the upcoming election for student body president to change the balance of power on the trustee board.
The allegations against trustees Robbie Moore and Phil Lewis were among series of charges and counter charges contained in the documents released late Thursday at the request of The Daily Reflector and other news outlets.
Moore also filed complaints against trustees Chairman Vern Davenport, Vice Chairman Fielding Miller and Trustee Max Joyner alleging unrelated inappropriate activity. Another letter complained the charges by Miller and Davenport against Moore and Lewis were made without full board discussion.
The documents include a heavily redacted, 56-page transcript of a recording of Moore and Lewis telling a student they would provide funds and other assistance for a campaign for Student Government Association president. The election is set for Feb. 19-21.
The SGA president is a voting member of the Board of Trustees. The 13-member board has seen split votes on key issues ranging from the chairmanship to student fees. Moore and Lewis met with the student on Jan. 13, documents said.
During the conversation, according to the transcript and a complaint filed against them, the two men offered to help the student with funding, signage, connections with other trustees and members of state government, and information from the student affairs office if the student decided to run.
At one point, Lewis said he would connect the student with Angela Moss, a newly appointed trustee who was ECU’s SGA president in 1999. "I can line that up and you can talk to her by phone or she'll come down here. And, and, confidentially, as long as you don't have to show where you get the money — I mean, we have no problem — I don't have any problems supporting you."
The men also discussed a 7-6 vote in July when the majority elected Davenport chairman over Moss. The current SGA representative, Colin Johnson, voted with the majority. Moore and Lewis were in the minority for Moss.
Moore told the student that Johnson had assured Moss several days before the vote that he would support her but changed his mind prior to the vote without further discussion. "I mean, he could've sent her a text, email, anything, that he was going to tell her no."
Lewis later tells the student, "we would love to hear from you and see what you think, and I think no matter what we do, like if you decide to run, we would like to keep it low key because we think we could help you without letting onto that you would be a candidate that we support ..."
The documents also included a letter from Moore and Lewis to David M. Powers, chairman of the UNC Board of Governors Committee on University Governance. In the letter, dated Jan. 24, the men said they met with the student "with the best intentions of furthering the higher interests of the university. In hindsight and upon further reflection, we now appreciate that the discussions during the meeting may not not have been the best approach to governance at ECU."
In the transcript, Lewis and Moore also tell the student they would help secure votes against further increases of student fees. They said they voted for a student fee increase on Nov. 22 only to punish Johnson for voting against Moss. Johnson was the lone vote against the increase.
“I mean, we could’ve won 7 to 6,” Lewis said. “But I’d be giving Colin a victory. What in the hell do I want to do that for?”
“He didn’t give me one,” Moore said.
Davenport and Miller, along with board Secretary Vince Smith, on Jan. 18, sent a complaint to the Board of Governors that provided details of the conversation and requested the governors to review the matter and take action if it found the men violated UNC policy governing the ethics of university trustees.
The governance committee is expected to take up the matter when the Board of Governors meets Feb. 20-21. The committee could recommend removal or other disciplinary action against Moore and Lewis or take no action.
The documents were released after a Saturday vote by the General Assembly of the UNC Association of Student Governments encouraging the governance committee to remove any university official found to be unduly influencing free and fair elections.
The resolution was cosponsored Johnson, who was asked about the allegations by phone Thursday night.
“I think it’s disheartening. It’s deeply disturbing to me that anyone on the Board of Trustees or any university official would try to interfere with a student government election,” he said.
“I take that responsibility very seriously and I serve on that board to directly represent nearly 29,000 students at ECU. Students have a right to participate in free and fair elections and to have someone represent them on the board who is there for all the right reasons."
The Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet on Thursday and Friday next week.