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The Daily Tar Heel

2 CAA Cabinet Members Fired

On the heels of a caustic and controversial race for Carolina Athletic Association president, the organization itself is continuing to struggle with internal conflict.

CAA Press Secretary Tiffany Black and Homecoming Co-Director Devyn Spence were dismissed from the CAA Cabinet on Tuesday night, allegedly for violating organizational policy.

CAA President Tee Pruitt said Black and Spence allowed their allegiances to the campaign for former CAA president candidate Michael Songer to interfere with their CAA responsibilities. "They explicitly did things they know and have been told are wrong, and if you're going to do it you, have to suffer the consequences," Pruitt said.

But Black said the reasoning for her and Spence's dismissal -- which she says Pruitt has failed to thoroughly detail -- has no grounding in policy. "It's because I had an opinion, and I wasn't afraid to express it even if it was different from Tee('s)," Black said. "Everyone (in Cabinet is) scared of them, and I refuse to be scared. I refuse to let people walk all over me."

Pruitt said CAA has a policy that Cabinet members reserve public criticisms as a last option to express their frustrations with the group.

He contends that Black is familiar with this policy and has given presentations about CAA public relations while acting as press secretary.

But Pruitt said Black and Spence's Point of View column in Monday's Daily Tar Heel supported Songer and criticized current practices of the CAA, thus violating the policy. "Within (that) column there were some pretty inflammatory remarks that we're not too happy with," he said. "I don't feel that's in the best interest of the organization, especially since ... everyone has been crystal clear about our expectations of them when it comes to outward expression."

Pruitt cited Songer's dismissal from the Cabinet in late January, which stemmed from internal conflicts with the organization. "Trying to mar the image of this administration is not in the press secretary's direct responsibility," he said.

Pruitt said Cabinet members are allowed to support candidates as long as their duties in CAA come first. Pruitt indicated his support for Reid Chaney during the election, testifying on his behalf during a Board of Elections investigation.

But Black said that such a policy is cosmetic, and that Pruitt has an agenda to push -- with or without the support of his Cabinet. "I'm frustrated with CAA, period," she said. "Anything (Pruitt) wanted to do, he went right over our heads."

Spence agreed, saying that a lack of communication plagued CAA. "Everyone knew there was tension without knowledge of the source," she said. "There wasn't ever a time that the air was cleared and people knew what was going on."

Black said Pruitt's tendencies to act as a dictator ruined the organization's potential. "This was one of the best Cabinets ever, but when your leader starts going over your head, it all falls apart."

Black said Chaney's victory over Songer was proof that CAA's internal strife bled into the election and has clouded the organization's credibility. "It wasn't that people supported Reid -- it was that he was the 'anybody but Michael' candidate," she said. "It wasn't Reid that won it, it was Fever that won.

"I feel bad for the guy. I don't believe he knows what he's gotten into."

Pruitt said the tension in the Cabinet was never a result of his threatening members. "I'm not dangerous to disagree with -- that's a ridiculous comment."

He said he stands by his evaluation of Black and Spence's performance. "As long as you do what's asked and what's expected of you, there's no problem."

Black said she likely will not pursue a position in Chaney's Cabinet, but she'll be acting as a watchdog over the group. "I'm taking a risk, but I'm not going to let people step on me," she said. "That's the risk I'm willing to take because I believe in my convictions."

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