Public records show the UNC-grad judge involved in the Silent Sam settlement has a deep history with his alma mater. Multiple powerful University figures, like a former chancellor and former football coach, have donated money to a political committee set up to keep the judge, R. Allen Baddour, in office.
As Kevin Guskiewicz, newly appointed chancellor, steps into his full-time role, there are many elements of the Silent Sam deal negotiated by the UNC System community protesters say are improper. The DTH found multiple cases of familial and professional ties between the people that put the deal together. This is a developing story and the extent to which the ties played a role in the deal’s formation is unclear.
“You can’t ignore the fact this is going on at a time of immense controversy over the governance of the system, and there are serious questions being raised about millions of dollars changing hands for the Sons of Confederate Veterans,” said Frank LoMonte, director of the University of Florida’s Brechner Center for Freedom of Information.
A Carolina Blue curtain
Board of Governors members said public records will be released next week that cover the settlement and the details of the monument trust. Guskiewicz said last week the funds used to pay the Confederate group will come from unrestricted revenue UNC nets from its investment portfolio.
Lawyers for the UNC System, an outside firm and the SCV arrived at the agreement days before Thanksgiving. UNC will give the Confederate group $2.5 million and the rights to Silent Sam, in exchange for a promise from the SCV to keep Silent Sam out of the 14 counties with a UNC System campus.
Many faculty and student groups strongly oppose the settlement and accuse the University of lacking transparency in its communications. But UNC leaders think the solution is a safe, lawful way of getting Silent Sam off campus, and for less than half the price of the UNC-endorsed Silent Sam museum proposed a year ago.
The UNC System’s legal defense to the SCV lawsuit involved system counsel Tom Shanahan and an attorney, Ripley Rand, from the law firm Womble Bond Dickinson — a multinational firm with ties to the Board of Governors.
Judge R. Allen Baddour signed the consent judgement that finalized the UNC System’s agreement with the SCV. He is a graduate of UNC undergrad and law school.
Baddour's brother, David, is a partner at Womble; his Womble profile says he splits his time between private investment fund transactions and general corporate work, and also focuses on representing clients in the education industry.
The UNC System hired the Womble law firm to deal with the October scandal at ECU, in which photographs of the then-ECU interim chancellor drinking with students emerged on social media. Security footage from the same night was later released that showed him losing a flip flop as he walked to his car, which he then drove away in.
R. Allen Baddour and David Baddour's father is Richard Baddour, UNC's athletic director from 1997-2011, who served in different administrative roles in the University throughout his career at UNC.
Allen, David and Richard Baddour did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the DTH.
David Powers has been a member of the Board of Governors since 2011. He used to be a lobbyist for tobacco company Reynolds American, but worked for Womble from 2015-17. His LinkedIn page says he was “building clientele in lobbying and government relations” for the firm.
Powers did not respond to requests for comment through UNC System media relations spokespeople.
Baddour was appointed to the Superior Court by former Governor Mike Easley in 2006.
That same year, the “Keep Allen Baddour Superior Court Judge” committee was established and started taking donations for Baddour’s future campaigns.
A wide array of former UNC administrators and officials have given money to the Baddour committee in the past, according to public records on the N.C. Board of Elections website.
Former men's football coach John Bunting is listed online as having contributed at the time, as is UNC’s former general counsel, and multiple members of Richard Baddour's staff in the athletic department.
The Baddour committee also received money from Rams Club administrator John Montgomery, and former chancellor Paul Hardin.
Tony Rand gave money to the committee; he is a former N.C. legislator and the father of Ripley Rand, who works for Womble and signed court documents in the Silent Sam settlement on behalf of the UNC System.
The N.C. judicial code of conduct says campaign contributions do not pose conflicts of interest on their own, said former director of N.C. judicial standards commission Chris Heagarty.
“If you eliminated every judge who went to UNC undergrad or law school, you wouldn’t have very many judges left in North Carolina to hear a case,” he said.
Baddour has been involved with UNC-related cases before, like the Eve Carson murder and a suit involving a professor accused of trafficking cocaine in Argentina.
Much of the SCV’s legal logic behind their claim of ownership to Silent Sam relies on a transfer of the rights from the United Daughters of the Confederacy — who allege to have taken legal ownership of the statue at the moment Carol Folt had its remnants taken away from McCorkle Place. In the lead-up to the settlement announcement, the UDC transferred ownership of Silent Sam to the SCV. Some legal scholars are calling the transfer’s legitimacy into question.
UNC law professor John Orth said he doesn’t understand how UNC’s acceptance of Silent Sam as a gift from the UDC constituted a binding contract, as the SCV alleges in their lawsuit.
“Was it an unconditional gift or was it subject to the condition that it be maintained permanently?” He said. “Those conditions on gifts to universities are very problematic.”
A longtime member of the N.C. SCV, who was granted anonymity based on personal safety concerns, told the DTH he believes the group’s leadership could potentially mismanage the payout. He also said he believes the group’s commander Kevin Stone used his connections to orchestrate the Silent Sam rights transfer.
The member said Frank Powell, editor of the SCV’s national magazine, is loyal to Stone in part because of Stone’s upward political trajectory within the group, and the member said he thinks Frank Powell worked out the UDC-SCV rights transfer with his wife Sara, the president of the N.C. United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Frank and Sara Powell declined to comment for this article
Orth said it bothers him how UNC emphasized that the funds for the monument would come from private sources.
“In my opinion, saying it’s private funds is essentially meaningless," he said. "Any money belonging to the University of North Carolina is for University purposes. And if they take it out of one pocket that just means they aren’t taking it out of the other.”
A coronation for Guskiewicz
In the wake of the monument settlement, the Board of Governors made Kevin Guskiewicz the chancellor of UNC via group phone call. On a rainy Friday morning, they ended the sports science professor’s ten month audition, marked by his inheritance of the Silent Sam question.
Guskiewicz’s official coronation at the digital meeting was unceremonious, but later in the afternoon, at UNC’s CURRENT ArtSpace + Studio, the new chancellor was unveiled in front of his family and a wide array of characters from UNC leadership.
Student Body President Ashton Martin used her time at the microphone to bring the crowd’s attention back to the $2.5 million Confederate monument payout that she said lingered over the celebration.
“Chancellor Guskiewicz: you now bear the responsibility of making sense of this whole situation — and to lead us forward now that Silent Sam is gone,” she said. “In order to do this, we want you to confront UNC’s history.”
Board members said the search committee short list was narrowed to two candidates, and interim system President William Roper made the choice to hire Guskiewicz, who has been at UNC since 1995.
Roper tapped Guskiewicz on the last day of the semester, continuing a cycle in which major policy moves relevant to the University are made as students are leaving campus.
Now as permanent chancellor, Kevin Guskiewicz will have to decide early on how he wants to position UNC in its response to the Silent Sam deal. He has been criticized by faculty and students for not speaking out early and loud enough, and the Chapel Hill community is watching to see how he handles the system's covert monument settlement.
He started by announcing a $5 million fund that will finance initiatives like the Commission on History, Race and A Way Forward, academic pursuits and operations of the campus safety commission, which Guskiewicz put together in the Spring.
"I will shine an honest and stark light on our campus," Guskiewicz said in his coronation statement. "I will act on the challenges we face. I will make mistakes, and I will work to change when I do."
Reporting contributed by Director of Investigations Charlie McGee
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