News: CJ Exclusives

UNC System board hoping to put recent controversies in the past

Randy Ramsey, named chairman of the UNC System Board of Governors Oct. 1, 2019, speaks during the BOG's Sept. 20, meeting. (Screenshot from UNC TV feed)
Randy Ramsey, named chairman of the UNC System Board of Governors Oct. 1, 2019, speaks during the BOG's Sept. 20, meeting. (Screenshot from UNC TV feed)

Members of the University of North Carolina System’s Board of Governors want you to know something. 

They’re ready to move past the drama. 

Members projected that message Friday, Nov. 15, at a regular board meeting hosted by Elizabeth City State University. 

The gathering —led by the body’s newly installed chairman, Randy Ramsey — followed a day of more headlines about a scandal involving board member Tom Fetzer and his unsanctioned investigation of former East Carolina University interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach. 

“The good stuff we’re doing across the university? I’m more than happy to talk about that,” Ramsey told members of the press after the meeting. “But we’re going to put these other issues in our rearview mirror, and we’re not going to discuss them further.”

It’s customary for the UNC System to hold a media availability after each board meeting, allowing members of the press time to ask questions. Days before the Nov. 15 meeting, press were notified that Ramsey, and interim system President Bill Roper, wouldn’t host a question/answer session.

Stories from N.C. Policy Watch and the Raleigh News & Observer Thursday, Nov. 14, revealed that board leaders might be considering sanctions against Fetzer, who twice hired lawyer Peter Romary, of private investigation firm Qverity, to scrutinize board-related matters. In 2018, Fetzer engaged Romary to run a background check on a candidate for an open chancellorship at Western Carolina University —  upending the process. Fetzer hired Romary again this fall to investigate Gerlach after photos and videos showed him drinking and dancing with college students. Romary later secured city video footage that showed Gerlach walking shakily to a car and driving away — the same night he was seen drinking in Greenville bars.

Documents released by the UNC System show that Romary was an unwelcome actor, as UNC hired its own firm to investigate the incident. Additionally, an April 11 letter, first reported Thursday by the News & Observer, shows Fetzer may have been interested in the ECU job after the March resignation of former ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton.

In the email, sent to former UNC Board Chairman Harry Smith and UNC Interim President Dr. Bill Roper, Fetzer outlined a plan called “Operation Rescue ECU.”

One section, labeled “IC’s Remarks,” is a draft speech not attributed to a specific name, but written as though Fetzer would deliver it.

“While I have not spent much time on campus yet and will meet later today with senior staff to develop priorities, I expect that our initial focus will be on operational issues: namely restoring the fiscal health and solvency of the institution and getting our enrollment levels back up,” Fetzer wrote in the speech. 

Gerlach was named to the post April 16. 

On Thursday, Ramsey told the News and Observer that the board should “consider consequences” for any board member who acts outside of board policies. But Friday’s meeting came, and went, and no one wanted to talk about it further. 

Carolina Journal attempted to ask Fetzer about the controversy. 

“No comment,” he said.

It’s time for the board to move on, board member Darrell Allison told CJ.

The N.C. General Assembly, which appoints the board members, appears to agree.

On Friday afternoon, the Senate voted to elect Dwight Stone, a member of UNC Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees, to take Smith’s place on the board. Smith, a source of controversy during his tenure on the BOG, vacated his seat as chairman in October, a little over a year after taking the position.

Smith resigned from the full board Nov. 4, but offered to stay until Feb. 1. If the Senate needed more time to find a replacement, he was happy to continue serving, Smith said. 

Stone will take Smith’s place Nov. 22.

  • TruthGuardian

    Sorry, but have you read the press release from Police Union?

    They hired Romary in early October after Gerlach gave a series of ever changing stories in a release and a 3 interviews. His interviews (to try and get reinstated) said he broke no laws — have you seen the video of him swerving down the street and getting into his car trying not to fall. In his interviews he fixed on two “unknown” police officers convincing him against his will to go to another bar.

    An off duty bar staff member did a call in on a show and said he was at this second bar at just after 10PM and Gerlach was already there — that is a lie. But Gerlach agreed with the time (almost an hour off). His blaming police (on Sunday it was 2 people he knew that he went to a pub with and by Tuesday it was rogue police leaning on him. That all started the “police set him up” narrative. He named no cops so people could think it was anyone, PBA said that was dangerous before Halloween, and the “hang them” posts online added to it.

    Romary works for a private firm that does background checks — so, you base this friendship and tight link on 1 job done 16 months before. You can bet UNC wanted no one helping the police as they were scapegoats — even the final report (after Gerlach said no police were involved and it was all his fault) stated they could not rule out a setup.

    I have no idea about Romary, but the media have done a number on him “said he was representing a senior legislator” when he said he had been informed I will be — big difference. They also added the name of a Durham lawyer to a cease and desist when the lawyer Tweeted that he had previously warned BOG of Xanax being used to drug girls for rape — UNC did nothing, local police did arrest a year later and during the year a woman says she was raped. Do they accept responsibility, NO, they name and shame the lawyer implying involvement in this.

    Police hired someone to investigate them and clear them of wrongdoing and that angered the UNC folks and the BOG who wanted police as a scapegoat.

    Interim Chancellor admitted (early on, yet no one in Chapel Hill corrected the LIES)
    *He went to more bars that he stated on radio.
    *He drank way more than he stated on radio.
    *He got to club far later than he and some “witness” said he did.
    *He was buying alcohol for students (and had done before)
    *He did not leave for home between 11:30-12:00 it was 1:51 AM.
    *When he got home he realized he had no key to his university owned house.
    *Rather than call police to let him in or take him to get key, he stumbled back downtown.
    *He staggered, almost hit lightpost, got in car and drove home (straddling two lanes)
    *He got home.
    *No one said anything about how he was at 7:45AM in meeting he went to.
    *He did press release that lied.
    *He did 3 on air, online interviews and lied.
    *He accused cops of convincing him to go to another bar.
    *He allowed slurs on cops, and threats to cops to continue.
    *UNC BOG and Admin let slurs on cops and threats continue.
    *Knowing truth UNC allowed arguments, petitions and protests to happen.
    *They put in report they could NOT determine who sender of original pictures were.
    *So they accused someone through some weird bending of words – but, seems person proved could not be them.
    * WHERE WERE the legislators and local politicians who always seem to seek FOP and PBA endorsement, yet seem not to have assisted.

    Roper and the lawyer for UNC need to quit (just look at their history and Roper’s personal history and present down in Florida with Board he is on)

    BOG should never use this law firm again.

    Apologies?? Do you think they should apologize for defamation and letting cops get threatened? I doubt it, they know they would just payout taxpayer and student money.

    This “interim Chancellor” it seems wanted to be the BMOC and drinking buddy, not a leader. The fact that Instagram posts from the day after the event show him talking to a blonde in a bar and a pretty lewd suggestion as to what he was doing is something these so called “investigators” should have looked into. In clubs, after midnight with women 30 years younger than him?

    It looks like Romary enlisted the help of Fetzer with the legislature, not the other way around. Any way you slice it, Fetzer is now 2 for 2 on matters he has been involved in. Two things that any competent 4th grader who knows how to use Google would have found but that legal and HR staff missed. No wonder UNC were angry — these tapes not only exonerated law enforcement (which seems to be what Romary was hired for) but they also blew the lid of the narrative that seemed to have been a forgone conclusion by the investigators. A final tip too, the people who wrote this may want to learn to spell.

    Also a tip to BOG — when a huge swath of your report is about a private citizen / lawyer and you have compiled 300 pages of documents on him, and also seem to have conducted surveillance on him (down to who booked a seat for him at a BOG meeting, you might want to talk to students about why, as a Board, you authorize surveillance on a private citizen and make that a priority over teaching. Just a thought.

    • NC Silver Eagle

      Something that concerns me is the law firm hired by the Board of Governors and/or Board of Trustees waited until the last possible moment to contact the Greenville Police Department for copies of Mr. Gerlach from the “night in question”. Were they maybe hoping the tapes would be erased and the problem “go away”?

      Certainly glad, ecstatic actually that FOP and/or PBA hired Mr. Romary and that he acted promptly to obtain copies of the videos! It is unconscionable that someone wanted to sweep this mess “under the rug”!

  • AndyB

    These stories are getting way out of hand and slurring good people.

    An interim Chancellor wanted to relive his youth (and then some) and so he buys students drinks. I would be pretty angry if I found out my 21 year old was in a club where the Chancellor (30+ years older than her) was hanging out buying her drinks and someone posted a video on Instagram saying, to be polite, that the man was trying to get her into bed.

    He gets wasted, takes a car share home, realizes he left house keys in car and so, at 2:20 AM he goes downtown and drives home. Then he puts out a statement that’s a lie, then he gives interviews that are on internet that are lies. A friend in the FBI says if he did that to get something of value (job back) then that is wire fraud. A max of 20 years each time.

    He confessed all of it to UNC bosses and they cover up for him by going after person who got tapes showing he was a liar. We all know Roper and the truth are not only not in the same ball park but are not even in the same city where the game is being played. Ethics forms (not just NC, look in other states), DaVita (he is on board of 11 folks) is getting sued AGAIN for ripping off poor people in Florida and I’m sure that will be in other states too. He is paying for investigation with tax dollars is what I heard, so he loves taking state money to do things!

    The university lawyer is so see through it literally hurts. Fetzer is 2 for 2 folks, whether you like him or hate him. I serve on a couple of boards and we were taught (by a good lawyer) that we must exercise independent judgment, but FOP say they asked for Fetzer’s help to stop police from seeing if legislators (who say they support police at election time) from issuing subpoenas.

    Where were the legislators “supporting police” while they were being accused of setting up a Chancellor.

    This seems more like a crime family than professionals running a university. But, create a smoke screen, lie to the public and lie to the Governors and soon your Wire Fraud and drunk driving Interim Chancellor can be made to look like an angel compared to the police and the guy they hired to save their good names! Time to go, Roper and Shanahan.