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The Daily Tar Heel

Two months after General Counsel Mark Merritt resigned, there's still no replacement

Mark Merritt
Mark W Merritt, former UNC vice chancellor and general counsel, discusses how the First Amendment protects hateful language during a panel discussion in 2017.

UNC General Counsel Mark Merritt left UNC at the end of 2018, but the University hasn't announced a replacement. 

Associate Vice Chancellors and senior University Counsels Steve Keadey and Kara Simmons are currently performing Merritt’s duties until someone else is hired for the position, UNC Media Relations manager Carly Miller told The Daily Tar Heel in an Feb. 5 email.

Miller concluded the email with a quote from the campus announcement of Merritt’s departure from Dec. 17. 

“We are very appreciative of the outstanding attorneys and staff in the Office of University Counsel. We have great assurance that legal matters will remain in their capable and professional hands.”

Merritt’s decision came at a period of high administrative turnover at UNC. The announcement came after the resignations of former UNC-system President Margaret Spellings and former Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Winston Crisp, and was followed by former Chancellor Carol Folt’s Jan. 14 decision to resign.

No replacement has yet been made for the position of vice chancellor either. 

The Daily Tar Heel reached out to Keadey and Simmons regarding their temporary post, but Keadey responded and said they declined to comment by the time of publication.

“Kara and I appreciate your interest, and we are grateful to you for thinking of us as potential interviewees, but we respectfully decline the invitation,” he said in an email.

Keadey has been employed in the Office of the University Counsel since June 2010 and Simmons since May 2005, Miller said. 

Kathryn Meyers, a business officer in the Office of University Counsel, said in an email to The Daily Tar Heel that she didn't know anything about Merritt's replacement. 

“I truly have no insight at all into what might happen next with regard to leadership in the Office of University Counsel,” she said in the email.

Referring to Keadey and Simmons, Meyers also said the Office’s two senior University counsels were filling in at meetings Merritt attended while vice chancellor and general counsel.

“It is my understanding that fairly high-level talks are ongoing between Dr. Roper, the UNC Board of Trustees, and the top echelon of leadership at the University about an interim chancellor – but I get that from DTH and the News & Observer,” Meyers wrote.

The original campuswide announcement, written by Folt and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert Blouin, said Merritt told the University of his intention to leave the position in the fall, to rejoin the Robinson Bradshaw law firm in Charlotte, where he was a litigator for 33 years.

“Since joining the University in 2016, Mark has led us through some of the most pressing legal challenges in Carolina’s history, including resolutions with the NCAA and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights about our Title IX program,” the statement said. “We, along with our senior leadership team, have enjoyed working with Mark. His passion and love for his alma mater will continue to inspire us. We wish him the best in his next endeavor.”

Neither the campuswide statement nor the email from UNC Media Relations suggested when a permanent replacement would be found.

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