The Pulse

UNC Board of Governors hold unplanned meeting Friday, while legislature demands information on chancellor pay

By: - November 12, 2015 1:18 pm

Lawmakers want to know more about the closed-door session held last month by the governing board of the state’s public university system, in which most chancellors received significant raises during a secret portion of the meeting.

“On behalf of the Speaker and the President Pro Tem, pursuant to G.S. 120-19, I am writing to request any and all records in the University’s possession regarding today’s UNC Board of Governors’ meeting,” wrote Andrew Tripp, an attorney in Senate Leader Phil Berger’s office, in an email sent the same day as the University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ Oct. 30 meeting.

Tripp asked for any audio recordings, as well as draft minutes and agendas for both the open and closed portions of the meeting. (Scroll down to read his email.)

The 32-member UNC Board of Governors announced this week it will hold a previously unscheduled meeting in Chapel Hill Friday to discuss the legislative request, as well as to get an update on faculty compensation.

Meanwhile, an agenda for the Nov. 18 joint legislative committee on government operations has the UNC system listed for a report, as well as an update about the recent controversy over the McCrory administration’s decision to award a prison maintenance contract to a campaign contributor over correction officials’ objections.

The chancellor raises, which included pay bumps as high as 20 percent or up to $70,000, came as rank-and-file employees have seen little movement in their own salaries in recent years, other than a $750 bonus that all state employees are slated to receive this year.

It also comes shortly after the UNC Board of Governors, who all received appointments from the Republican-led legislature, announced its hiring of former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings at a base salary of $775,000, much higher than the $600,000 that outgoing UNC president Tom Ross received as a base salary.

Spellings’ contract also requires the UNC Board of Governors to provide for performance-based bonus as well, something that her predecessors did not receive.

Several reporters for media outlets, including N.C. Policy Watch, objected to the secrecy surrounding chancellor pay at the board’s Oct. 30 meeting, as well as the delay in released details about the raises for several days.

N.C. Policy Watch requested copies of the closed-door session minutes on Nov. 2, but UNC system officials have yet to provide them.

In the case of the October meeting, the UNC Board of Governors spent two and a half hours in closed session and the majority of their discussion remains a mystery to the public.

The state’s open meeting law requires most public business to be conducted in the open, with only limited discussions permitted to be held in secret. While discussion about compensation for employee contracts can be held in secret, general discussion about personnel policy must be held in open session, the state’s open meeting law states.

Several attorneys who specialize in public record and open meetings laws have said there are not grounds under the state’s laws to hold a vote for pay raises in secrecy nor to delay the prompt public disclosure those raises.



Legislative Request to Board of Governors (2) by NC Policy Watch

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Sarah Ovaska-Few

Sarah Ovaska-Few, former Investigative Reporter for N.C. Policy Watch for five years, conducted investigations and watchdog reports into issues of statewide importance. Ovaska-Few was also staff writer and reporter for six years with the News & Observer in Raleigh, where she reported on governmental, legal, political and criminal justice issues.