BOT members being sworn in, July 2019. 

In the most recent developments involving the East Carolina University Board of Trustees members, a transcript detailing a conversation between BOT members and an anonymous student has been released.

During an interview with The East Carolinian, Student Government Association President Colin Johnson, gave a statement on the transcript between Phil Lewis, Robert Moore and the anonymous student.

“It’s disappointing that two trustees would try to interfere in an SGA election. Obviously, they said some things about me in the discussion that are personally offensive, but that’s not my focus. The position isn’t about me, it’s about serving students. That’s all I can do and will continue to do so in the most ethical way I know how,” Johnson said. “Whoever has this position next, I hope they will make the same commitment to students.”

Moore and Lewis first began their offer of financial support to the unnamed student running for SGA on Jan. 13, when they had lunch with the student. In records now released by the UNC BOG public records office, the recorded conversation at the lunch meeting was put into transcription. The majority of the student’s dialogue has been redacted. At one point, Lewis and Moore speak on donating because it is a “free world.”

During their meeting with the anonymous ECU student, Lewis and Moore discussed Johnson by referencing the most recent BOT meeting in November where the vote was a majority 12 to one win to raise student fees related to athletics, where Lewis is quoted saying, “We could have won seven to six… but I’d be giving Colin a victory, and what in the hell do I want to do that for?”

On Monday morning, Johnson sent out a statement to the ECU student body addressing the transcript and including a link to a petition to remove Lewis and Moore if students wished to become involved.

“Let me be clear, what was discussed in this meeting is offensive and represents a clear attempt to interfere in the SGA elections process,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s email stated that SGA candidates will now be required to report all campaign contributions or offered campaign contributions made by anyone. Accepting a campaign contribution from a trustee member will now result in immediate disqualification from the elections. Candidates also must sign an ethics statement before running.

In his statement on Monday, Johnson defended the student who met with Lewis and Moore, reminding ECU that their identity is protected by law.

“This student did a great service to the university and the student body by bringing to light this meeting and the substance of their discussion. I do not wish any retaliation or ill-will on this student. I thank them and applaud their bravery,” Johnson said in his statement.

In three letters submitted on Jan. 20 to UNC BOG from Moore to the chair of the Committee on University Governance with the BOG, Daniel Powers, the removal of three other members of the ECU BOT, Max Joyner, Fielding Miller and Vern Davenport was requested. In each letter, Moore suggests that those members may have also violated university bylaws.

In a Jan. 22 email, the UNC BOG received a complaint from Moore recommending the removal of Davenport from the BOT. The same day Moore also recommended the removal of BOT members Max Joyner and Fielding Miller due to inappropriate behavior as board members. All recommendations for removal of university trustees are governed by the UNC BOG Policy 200.7, which states that such matters are considered by the Committee on University Governance.

The week of Jan. 27, it was revealed that Vern Davenport, chairman of the ECU BOT, may also have gone against UNC System Policy.

The other letters accused Joyner of allegedly violating ethical policies by using information obtained through his position of power in the BOT to purchase property that “is only 185 feet from property that has been leased/sold to Elliott Sidewalk,” the letter said.

Elliott Sidewalk is a company that has been working with ECU in order to develop the area in which Joyner allegedly bought property nearby.

When The East Carolinian reached out for an interview with ECU BOT members Joyner, Davenport, Lewis, Moore, Jim Seagrave and Angela Moss, none of the six responded.

Lewis and Moore’s offer of financial support is a violation of the University of North Carolina System Policy and the North Carolina State Government Ethics Act.

John Bell, a republican in the North Carolina Assembly, and republican Senator Jim Perry are cited in the transcript as “wanting to see change” within the ECU BOT.

Lewis mentioned Angela Moss, a BOT member based out of Chapel Hill and former ECU SGA president, to the student saying he would like to connect them so she could help him out.

In a Jan. 24 email to Powers, Lewis and Moore express their apologies and claim they met with the student with intentions of furthering the higher interests of ECU.

In addition to student backlash, an online petition is currently circulating on social media and has been signed by over 1,000 people for the removal of Lewis and Moore.

The University of North Carolina System Board of Governors Committee on University Governance will meet to hear complaints and respond to the situation this Wednesday from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in Chapel Hill at the Center for School Leadership Development, Room 128. The full BOG will likely vote on this matter at their meetings on Feb. 20 and 21.

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