ECU trustees: Speaker Tim Moore seeking chancellor’s post

By: - February 20, 2020 5:30 am

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) is seeking the open chancellor’s position at East Carolina University, two members of the ECU Board of Trustees confirmed to Policy Watch this week.

“He is interested, he is pursuing it and there’s a lot of conversation about it,” one of the board members said in an interview with Policy Watch.

Policy Watch agreed not to identify the trustees so they could discuss confidential conversations amongst board members and the confidential chancellor search process.

These members described conversations about Moore’s candidacy in which they directly participated. These conversations included debates about whether it would appear proper for one of the state’s most powerful elected officials, responsible for appointing members of both the Board of Trustees and the UNC Board of Governors, to take a job on which those boards would ultimately vote.

“There are those on the board who don’t think it would be right to have a vote of the people who the General Assembly appointed to decide if one of the leaders of the General Assembly gets one of the most important leadership positions at ECU,” one of the ECU trustees told Policy Watch this week.

There has also been discussion among members of the UNC Board of Governors about Moore’s candidacy for the top post at the Greenville university, three members of the board confirmed to Policy Watch this week. Policy Watch agreed not to identify those members so that they could describe confidential conversations and because they said they feared political reprisal for discussing Moore’s interest in the chancellorship at ECU.

“It is a continuing issue we have had to deal with,” one Board of Governors member told Policy Watch. “He is obviously interested in a leadership position and we are going to have to deal with the question of what that means and whether it’s appropriate.”

In October, Policy Watch reported rumors of Moore pursuing the UNC system presidency. The situation divided board members. Some publicly supported the idea while others said it seemed like self-dealing, confirming a public perception that the board has become too partisan and too closely tied to the General Assembly.

“The UNC president, that seemed like too much for some of the governors,” said one Board of Governors member. “That seemed like too much political favoritism; it made people uncomfortable.”

“But there were some people who argued he would be qualified to be a chancellor and that seemed like less of a hot issue,” the board member said. “I don’t personally agree with that – I don’t think you should have sitting members of the General Assembly, never mind the leadership, asking people they appointed for jobs like this. But some people are okay with that.”

Moore has repeatedly denied the rumors that he was seeking the UNC system presidency, though his denials have become less emphatic.

Joseph Kyzer, Moore’s communications director, responded to Policy Watch’s questions about whether Moore is seeking the chancellorship.

“Speaker Moore is seeking re-election to the state House in 2020, plans to run for another term as Speaker if elected, and is focused on serving higher education students and campuses through his position in the General Assembly,” Kyzer said Wednesday.

Kyzer did not respond to a follow-up question asking whether Moore’s run for re-election would preclude him from also seeking the chancellorship at ECU.

The ECU Board of Trustees recently began its chancellor search process in earnest, even as it grapples with a series of scandals related to its leadership and the actions of some trustees. In November, the UNC system named a 20-member search committee that will recommend finalists to UNC-system Interim President Bill Roper, who will recommend a final candidate to the Board of Governors. The board will then vote on whether to make that candidate ECU’s next leader.

Earlier this week, Robert Moore became the second ECU trustee to resign after attempting to recruit a student to run for student government president and thereby, he hoped, swing the balance of power on the school’s Board of Trustees.

In his resignation letter, Robert Moore suggested Tim Moore (no relation) was seeking the chancellorship at ECU – news to much of the public but not, board members said this week, to those close to the process.

Cecil Staton, the last ECU chancellor hired on a permanent basis, stepped down in May 2019.

“In closing I want to again thank you for the opportunity to serve the institution that I have come to adore and love,” Robert Moore wrote to the Speaker. “I would also like to wish you the very best of luck in your continued pursuit of the position of Chancellor at East Carolina University.”

One Greenville trustee said Moore’s apparent interest in the chancellorship puts the recent leadership changes at ECU in a new light.

Cecil Staton, the last ECU chancellor hired on a permanent basis, was forced to resign by the UNC Board of Governors last May and no reason was ever publicly given. Staton’s interim replacement, Dan Gerlach, resigned the position after it was alleged he’d engaged in an evening of drinking with students in bars near campus. A security video showed him driving off afterwards.

As revealed in a UNC investigation of the Gerlach affair, several figures close to the scandal suggested Speaker Moore’s office was involved in attempts to make damning photos and video of Gerlach publicly available.

Dan Gerlach left ECU’s interim chancellor role in October 2019.

“It is not an accident that Tim Moore has had his hand in every one of these major leadership changes at ECU,” one trustee told Policy Watch this week. “He wanted to be the UNC President and it became clear to him that would be too controversial and there were some members of the [UNC Board of Governors] who would not go for that. So he began looking at where he could be a chancellor and ECU looked like the best place.”

Another member said it is clear that some leadership role within the UNC system is Moore’s “gold parachute plan” should Democrats take control of the House and he finds himself out of the majority.

“Cecil Staton was making $450,000 a year as chancellor at ECU and we paid him almost $600,000 in a separation deal when he was forced out,” said a Board of Governors member. “If you are a state legislator, even if you’re the Speaker, that looks like pretty good money. That’s not a bad way to retire from Raleigh.”

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Joe Killian
Joe Killian

Investigative Reporter Joe Killian's work examines government, politics and policy, with a special emphasis on higher education, LGBTQ issues and extremism.