UNC Board Of Governors Split On Search

Oct 16, 2015

The UNC Board of Governors meeting at SAS Institute in Cary, before going into close session.
Credit Dave DeWitt

The UNC Board of Governors is meeting behind closed doors Friday in Cary amid strong disagreements over the search for a new system president.

Chairman John Fennebresque called the emergency meeting yesterday after the search committee to select a new UNC system president met on Wednesday. That prompted multiple members of the Board of Governors -  including Scott Lampe and Thom Goolsby - to write scathing letters complaining about the secretive aspects of the search, and asking for the chairman’s resignation.

"We are now in a situation where it does not matter who the candidate is at this point, given the complete breakdown of trust the board, the legislature and, I believe, the general public has in your leadership," Goolsby wrote in an email to Fennebresque.

The state legislature passed a law this session that requires the search committee to present three final candidates to the Board. That legislation is sitting on the governor's desk.

The emergency meeting prompted a sharp rebuke from Republican leadership in the legislature, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore.

In a letter, the two wrote: "While the bill has not yet been signed by the Governor, calling an emergency meeting to discuss only one candidate could be viewed as the Board’s attempt to circumvent the overwhelming will of the elected people of the State of North Carolina prior to the bill becoming law."

In a joint statement released today, the search committee responded: “As to the concerns expressed by President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and Speaker of the House Tim Moore in their October 15 letter to the Board of Governors, we are ensuring our process follows the law as amended, as well as Board policy. We fully understand President Berger’s and Speaker Moore’s view that the recently passed Senate Bill 670 requires that the full Board of Governors consider the names of at least three final candidates. We share their desire that the final selection not be hurried or made without consideration by the entire board.”

The News and Observer is reporting that only one finalist is being considered today. Margaret Spellings is a former secretary of education in the George W. Bush administration.

Spellings made a brief - and possibly unintentional - appearance during the roll call period of the open meeting today, before being quickly led out.