The governing board of the state’s public university system decided Friday to hand over audio recordings and documents to legislative leaders from a closed-door discussion last month raising the pay of a dozen chancellors.
Friday’s meeting of the university system’s Board of Governors was called in order to deal with a request from Republicans state Senate leader Phil Berger and N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore for details on whether the board complied with open meeting laws when it decided to raise the pay for 12 of the system’s 17 chancellors.
The UNC Board of Governors voted Oct. 30 to give pay raises of up to 20 percent, or $70,000, in a closed session portion of their meeting. Media outlets with reporters at the meeting, including N.C. Policy Watch, objected to the secrecy of the discussions and the vote behind closed doors. (Click here to read more about the raises.)
UNC officials have also been called to appear at a Nov. 18 legislative hearing, to discuss open meeting concerns over the Oct. 30 vote.
On Friday, several board members made vague references to the October closed session discussion, saying discussions had been robust and the votes for pay raises close. N.C. Policy Watch, and several other media outlets, has requested details about the votes, but no information has been released.
Friday’s meeting also included a request by acting chair Lou Bissette for a briefing at the board’s December meeting about its requirements under the state’s open meeting and public record laws.
Bissette said Friday he would release a summary of the closed-session vote to offer more information about what transpired.
Members of the state’ public university governing board also aired some of their differences Friday with each other and lawmakers.
Joe Knott, a Raleigh board member appointed this summer, said he was wary of interference from the political forces at the legislature and feared a “dangerous precedent” could be set by acquiescing to the lawmaker’s requests.
In his comments, Knott then said that a lawmaker pressured former UNC Board Chair John Fennebresque to favor a particular candidate in the search for a new president.
Knott, when asked by reporters, would not provide details about how he obtained that information, nor the name of the lawmaker allegedly involved. Fennebresque, whose leadership of the board was marked by discord, resigned days after former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings was hired in mid-October.
Thom Goolsby, a Wilmington attorney and board member who previously served in the state Senate, said he has not faced any pressure from his former colleagues.
“Nobody told me who I should vote for,” he said. He also added that he welcomed scrutiny from lawmakers. The UNC Board of Governors consists of 32 members, all of whom received their appointments from the state legislature.
“They should be looking at us,” Goolsby said.
Marty Kotis, another board member from Greensboro, said he objected to Knott’s allegations, and that the board has the duty to act in a transparent manner with lawmakers as well as the public as a whole.
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