The North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans received $74,999 in a settlement with the Board of Governors less than a week before the $2.5 million Silent Sam agreement was announced, according to public records released Monday.
The $74,999 settlement agreement was signed on Nov. 21 and enumerated that the SCV’s activities on UNC System campuses would be limited, given that a consent order was approved. That consent order, which gave the SCV possession of the monument and a $2.5 million trust for its preservation, was approved on Nov. 27.
The SCV agreed not to display Confederate flags, banners or signs at events on property controlled by the System. It also agreed to comply with UNC System policies and procedures regarding group events for five years.
If the consent order was not approved, the SCV agreed that it would not hold events on any campuses for five years in exchange for the $74,999 payment.
This additional settlement was disclosed in an editorial from five BOG members, published in the Raleigh News & Observer on Monday morning. The editorial was written by Jim Holmes, Darrell Allison, Wendy Murphy, Anna Nelson and Bob Rucho and was entitled “We created a trust to pay a Confederate group to take Silent Sam. It was the best solution.”
The writers defended the $2.5 million Silent Sam agreement by saying that it protected students, faculty and staff from harm by ensuring that Silent Sam was not returned to a county where there is a UNC System campus.
“We were given the responsibility to resolve a deeply divisive and personal issue,” the editorial said. “While we have heard from citizens from across this state who have expressed their gratitude for our efforts of finding a solution to this issue, we also acknowledge that others strongly disagree with the Board’s decision to approve a settlement. Compromise was a necessity.”
On Monday afternoon, the UNC System released several documents from public records requests about the SCV settlement. Among other things, the documents showed that the UNC System signed the $74,999 settlement with the SCV before the agreement to give the group possession of Silent Sam occurred.
T. Greg Doucette, a criminal defense attorney, said he thought the timing of the BOG editorial was suspect. He said the members who wrote the editorial likely knew the “document dump” later on Monday would disclose the Nov. 21 settlement.
“So they’re trying to roll it out in the editorial so that when it does come out, the response from the press people can be, ‘Oh, nothing to see here. We already disclosed it in the editorial. Go ahead, move along,’” Doucette said.
The payment amount of $74,999 meant that North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein was not required to review the settlement, as he would be for agreements of more than $75,000. Stein’s office has previously called the $2.5 million settlement an excessive amount of money.
“Because it was under $75,000, that agreement was not presented to our office,” Laura Brewer, communications director for the Attorney General, said in a Monday statement responding to the Nov. 21 settlement. “Attorney General Stein continues to believe that money should instead be used to strengthen the University and support students.”
According to the public records released by the UNC System, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz received a letter from interim UNC System President Bill Roper on Nov. 26 informing him of the $74,999 agreement and the next day’s meeting to settle legislation from the SCV.
Roper directed Guskiewicz to arrange for the transfer of $2,574,999 in non-state funds to the UNC System Office, to ensure that funds would be available if the litigation was settled.
The $2.5 million settlement was proposed to the BOG Committee on University Governance and voted on at a meeting of 20 BOG members, according to the editorial. The members who wrote the editorial attributed this to Section 200.5 of the UNC Policy Manual, which outlines the situations in which the Committee has this authority.
Doucette said he does not believe that any of the Section 200.5 criteria were met in this case. He said he believes the Committee made the decision in an attempt to minimize the political fallout from a controversial settlement.
“Now everybody on the Board except for the few people on the University Governance Committee can say they had nothing to do with it because they weren’t on the committee that made the decision,” he said.