News: Quick Takes

Fetzer: I was approached about interim WCU chancellorship

UNC President Margaret Spellings (left), and former UNC Board of Governors Chairman Lou Bissette, at a 2016 board meeting. (CJ photo by Kari Travis)
UNC President Margaret Spellings (left), and former UNC Board of Governors Chairman Lou Bissette, at a 2016 board meeting. (CJ photo by Kari Travis)

Two former members of Western Carolina University’s board of trustees recommended Tom Fetzer as interim chancellor at the university, Fetzer told Carolina Journal after the UNC Board of Governors July 27 meeting in Chapel Hill.

Fetzer is a member of the Board of Governors, lobbyist, former Raleigh mayor, and long-time Republican activist and consultant.

The news follows arguments among BOG members, some of whom have openly berated Fetzer for allegedly meddling in the search for a new WCU chancellor. The WCU chancellor’s position became open June 17. Former Chancellor David Belcher, a leader beloved by many in the UNC community, died after a two-year battle with brain cancer.

After Belcher’s death, Fetzer was open to becoming interim chancellor, but UNC President Margaret Spellings instead selected WCU Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar. It was a “superb appointment,” Fetzer told CJ.

On July 12, the board was set to vote on a candidate appointed by  Spellings. But after two hours in closed session, no vote was taken. The undisclosed chancellor appointee withdrew from consideration a few days later, and the board announced it would restart the search process.

Fetzer is largely to blame for the disruption, Lou Bissette, the board’s former chairman, said during a July 26 BOG committee meeting in Chapel Hill, a story from the News and Observer says.

Email records obtained by CJ show Fetzer hired an outside firm to investigate Spellings’ candidate after reviewing the appointee’s CV.

“I became concerned of a claim, found on page three, that ____ had lectured at _____, which I had never heard of,” Fetzer wrote July 11.

Fetzer contacted a friend at QVerity, a consulting firm staffed by former CIA personnel. He released the WCU chancellor candidate’s name to the firm, which performed a “preliminary review.”

Some board members said Fetzer was wrong to share the name of the appointee with outside counsel.

Fetzer defended the action, citing legal requirements that any state employee be thoroughly vetted.

UNC runs background checks on every chancellor appointee and completed a review of the WCU candidate, university officials confirmed.

Fetzer confirmed to CJ that other board members knew he was taking the name of the appointee to an outside firm, but refused to disclose names.

CJ asked Fetzer whether he offered himself as a candidate for the WCU chancellorship.

“No,” he said.

The chancellor search so far has cost $100,000, and more expenses may be incurred, said Spellings.