News: CJ Exclusives

Another Sweetheart Deal at UNC-CH

The news last fall of sweetheart deals to exiting administrators of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill placed the institution under unsettling scrutiny of its priorities. Those deals amounted to $520,000 plus travel expenses to two former vice chancellors, Susan H. Ehringhaus and Susan T. Kitchen. They came to light after other UNC-CH officials had spent months making the university’s case against any more budget cuts affecting them, on the basis that the university had nowhere left to cut.

Last month, Carolina Journal learned of another lucrative send-off to a UNC-CH official. On May 9, 2002, UNC-CH and Associate Vice Chancellor Evelyn Hawthorne agreed to a termination arrangement in which Hawthorne was sent home but continued to receive her annual salary of $111,625 through July 31.

The amount paid to Hawthorne was about $27,000, Vice Chancellor Matthew Kupec said. Hawthorne was charged during that time with the task of drafting a strategy, complete with contact information, for how UNC-CH could deal with state legislators, university trustees, and the UNC Board of Governors. During that time, Hawthorne could earn an additional $20,000 by devising a public-image campaign for the university, which she did.

She was also permitted to take her remaining vacation time (261 hours — about 6 1/2 weeks’ worth — as of May 9, but she continued to accrue vacation time through July 31).

The first person to sign off on the agreement, as UNC-CH vice chancellor and general counsel, was Ehringhaus. Hawthorne’s specific duty was to “draft a strategy dealing with each legislator, complete with address, phone numbers, fax numbers and email address if available, the best contacts and, in general, any information the University should know, and to provide [Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Matthew] Kupec with strategic information concerning trustees and the Board of Governors.”

Hawthorne completed this duty by furnishing Kupec with a memorandum under the subject heading “Government Relations Strategy Materials.” The memorandum is dated “July 28, 2002”; however, there is a “Received” stamp on that sheet containing the date “JUL 30 2001.” The memorandum comprises:

Contents of memorandum

• A list of one-line factoids on trustees and the Board of Governors (e.g., “Jim Phillips is close to Sen Basnight and is active as a lobbyist on behalf of several clients”);

• Spreadsheet printouts of state senators and representatives that includes their legislative phone numbers, email addresses, and birthdays; tells whether they are UNC-CH alumni; and gives other “notes” (e.g., “Conservative who doesn’t always vote with party,” “Does not like Chn. Moeser,” “Not proud to be alumnus,” “Retiring Dookie dentist,” “Interested in Ag stuff”);

• A printout dated July 28, 2002, of the UNC-CH web page that lists trustees and including their addresses, phone and fax numbers, and email addresses.

• A printout dated July 28, 2002, of the UNC web page (www.northcarolina.edu/applications/secretary/admin_directory/view_by_org.cfm?org=1&group=Null) that lists the Board of Governors, including board members’ addresses, business and residence phone numbers, fax numbers, and email addresses.

• A five-page “State and Federal Relations Briefing Materials” document marked “Confidential” that was published by Hawthorne’s Office of Government Relations at UNC-CH in “January, 2001.”

• A printout of the Office of the Governor web page giving biographical information on Gov. Mike Easley (there is no date on the printout, but the printout reports Easley’s son, Michael Jr., is “age 15,” whereas that same page now reports it as “age 17”)

• An article dated January 7, 2001, from The Charlotte Observe that said, “Mike Easley is going to be a very different kind of governor”;

• An undated printout of the Office of Lieutenant Governor web page giving biographical information on Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue;

• A printout dated Jan. 11, 2001, of the Office of State Treasurer web page giving biographical information on Treasurer Richard Moore;

• A printout dated Jan. 11, 2001, of the Office of Attorney General web page giving biographical information on N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper;

• Dozens of printouts (only some with dates; those range from Jan. 9 to Jan. 11, 2001) of web pages on state senators and representatives and North Carolina’s representatives in the U.S. House and Senate.

The agreement would also grant Hawthorne a “one-time payment in the gross amount of $20,000” if Hawthorne were to “prepare and recommend a program of activities designed to strengthen the relationship between UNC-CH and the people of North Carolina.” It does not indicate whether UNC-CH officials would follow Hawthorne’s program.

Hawthorne submitted an 18-page report, double-spaced, entitled “Carolina Reaching Out: A Strategy to Engage and Extend Carolina” on June 14, 2002. In the report, Hawthorne discusses UNC-CH’s troubles with connecting with the public, which include perceptions of UNC-CH as a basketball school or a place for the elite, removed from everyday concerns. She suggests paying less attention to media coverage and more to building programs with long-term outreach goals.

Hawthorne’s report, however, “represents the opinion of one person and not the opinion of the university,” Kupec said. “We read it once, and candidly, we put it in the file and haven’t referred to it since.”

Sanders is assistant editor of Carolina Journal.