Why Were NC University Chancellors’ ACC Votes Confidential? Because They Said So

Why Were NC University Chancellors’ ACC Votes Confidential? Because They Said So

Read Part One of this series here. Read Part Two here. Read Part Three here.

As University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University PR flacks prepared the announcement and responses to media about their chancellors’ vote on the removal of ACC championships from North Carolina over its House Bill 2 law, they continually fell back on a dubious premise: that the nature of the votes made by Carol Folt and Randy Woodson were “confidential.”

But despite their claims to the contrary, there is no document or contract that binds any of the ACC member universities to sworn secrecy over any decisions they make as a board. The Chesser Files requested copies of any binding confidentiality agreements between UNC and NC State and the ACC, and was told by the universities that none exist.

The assertion that the ACC presidents’ votes were confidential was even further undermined by the fact that Duke University informed the media that their President, Richard Brodhead, voted to move the championships out of North Carolina. If a private university such as Duke, not subject to the state’s public records law, was free to disclose how its leader voted on the ACC decision, then why weren’t the two member public universities in North Carolina — whose chancellors earn more than $500,000 each, funded by taxpayers — allowed to say how they voted?

The truth is, they are able. In response to a records request, NC State executive director of university relations Fred Hartman told The Chesser Files in an email:

The confidentiality agreement is a verbal agreement. It is the normal business practice of the ACC Council of Presidents to enter into a verbal agreement of confidentiality among members, as was the case for this meeting. Chancellor Woodson gave his commitment to the President’s Council and he intends to keep it.

Whether or not Woodson, and UNC’s Folt, committed to secrecy with the ACC board is in question. Either they made a promise that Duke’s Brodhead did not, or someone is lying. And regardless, as the leaders of two major publicly-funded government institutions, they never should have assured their fellow member ACC university heads and conference officials that they would keep their votes confidential.

Yet that’s what UNC and NC State officials told donors and media — that they were legally required to adhere to a false “confidentiality” with the ACC. Woodson himself even told The Chesser Files in an email response, “There is no public record of the vote and the proceedings of the ACC are confidential.”

In one example, UNC associate vice chancellor of communications Rick White informed colleagues that NC State chief communications officer Brad Bohlander told the New York Times:

The ACC Council of Presidents discussions, deliberations and breakdown of votes are confidential. We can confirm it was a thoughtful and vigorous discussion and was not a unanimous vote.

Similarly, White said Bohlander sent this statement to higher education reporter Jane Stancill of The News & Observer of Raleigh:

The ACC Council of Presidents operates under a confidentiality agreement that prohibits individual university leaders from disclosing or discussing how they vote on specific issues. We can say there was a thoughtful and vigorous discussion and that the vote was not unanimous.

Even a statement that was drafted by White a day after the ACC announcement, that was intended to clear up confusion about the universities’ “position on the vote and its outcome,” mentioned the phantom “confidentiality:”

While each member university leader is bound by confidentiality agreement with the ACC regarding actual votes, we can say the final decision was not unanimous among university leaders.

Yet despite demands from donors to reveal how Folt and Woodson voted, the most that UNC and NC State public relations officials would say is that the chancellors “regretted” the decision. Unless there are documents to the contrary not provided to The Chesser Files, that seemed to pacify some donors, but the public may never know how many former patrons of the universities decided to stop giving because of the controversy.

As for the legacy media, which is supposed to stand for government transparency as one of its top priorities, the interest in how Folt and Woodson voted faded quickly. Journalists lost interest quickly after Stancill’s initial report in The News & Observer, and after a column a week later by former state syndicated columnist Pat Gannon, who now works for the State Board of Elections. He wrote:

The ACC chancellors could have given reasonable explanations for voting either way, but apparently don’t want whatever scrutiny would come from revealing their votes. Yes, it’s a thorny political topic at a thorny political time, but the public has a right to know where they came down.

Did they choose to send the games away to protest House Bill 2 and encourage our elected leaders to do something about it? Or did they vote to keep the games here, attempting to prevent the economic damage of lost championships and revenue?

Gannon’s column was the last anyone heard from the media about the lack of transparency over the ACC votes.

Further, ACC presidents’ decision to remove championships as a means of political pressure against North Carolina lawmakers to repeal or change HB2 would seem to violate the ACC’s own bylaws, which state:

No substantial part of the activities of the organization shall be the carrying on of propaganda or otherwise attempting to influence legislation by legal, governmental agencies, and the organization shall not participate in or intervene in (including the publishing or distribution of statements) any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office.

Yet the ACC’s member presidents went totally political — either in response to pressure from the extreme LGBT pressure groups or their own leftist advocacy (or both) — to violate their own bylaws and the foundations of transparency demanded as actors on behalf of the taxpaying public. Folt and Woodson, as representatives of the State of North Carolina that was harmed by the ACC’s decision, owe it to the people who pay their salaries to inform them whether they voted to economically harm their own state.

Woodson seems to want to have it both ways. In response to angered alumnus and donor Ken Stallings, a retired Air Force Major, he refused to say how he voted, but said:

I appreciate your support of NC State. I’m not sure where you read I supported this. Actually, the vote was confidential, but you should know it was not unanimous. You have seen no statement from me where I supported this action.

UNC Chancellor Folt and NC State Chancellor Woodson are trying to be cute. They refuse to be accountable to donors, to students, and to North Carolina’s citizens and their elected lawmakers.

There is nothing that legally binds them to confidentiality with the ACC. In fact, they are legally and ethically obligated to reveal how they voted on the championships, and on all matters that obligate their universities to public actions.

If they won’t reveal their votes, then they should either resign or be fired.

Read Part One of this series here. Read Part Two here. Read Part Three here.

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8 Comments

  1. AgentPierce
    January 02, 11:18 Reply
    An obvious conclusion is that both Chanc Woodson and Folt know their alumni bases are divided on the HB2 issue. To declare their vote would be unpopular with a significant # of alums. We are left to conclude that both Chancs were true to their liberal leanings and voted with Duke's Brodhead for moving the events.
  2. Roadwarrior
    January 03, 18:55 Reply
    These folks are payed by the taxpayers, there should be no confidentiality on anything they do, other than personnel issues.
  3. Oo7
    January 04, 07:59 Reply
    I'm glad pat is out and never come back. Hate to loose
  4. Ronald Riggs
    January 08, 14:16 Reply
    If this thing Carol Folt , Randy Woodson or any other official at the N.C. university voted for the ACC Championship games or anything else to be removed from North Carolina because of HB 2 they should be fired immediately and taken off my pay roll as they do not speak for the people of N.C. who pay them to do a job which it appears by their judgement on this issue they do not have the common sense to perform..
  5. Michael
    January 08, 14:52 Reply
    This is an example of why we are in the shape we are in. Trump is a breath of fresh air. We know where he stands. Anyone who thinks co-ed bathrooms, locker rooms, etc. is OK is not qualified to teach my child.
  6. Bonnlass
    January 08, 19:43 Reply
    Dear Senator Berger, Will there be an 'Amber Alert' signal if you and House Speaker Tim Moore become radicalized by the perverted LGBTQ agenda? How can the Republican leadership sellout to the homosexual minority in favor of repealing HB2? The political LEFT are seeking to ban sex specific bathrooms, locker rooms, shower rooms, which will open the public bathrooms to threats of sexual predators, robbers, and child abductors. Will the bathrooms in the NC State House Cloak rooms be open to transgendered homosexual personnel, and the Republican leadership waive our State Rights to morality and privacy? Please convey my vehement demand NOT to repeal HB2 to the entire NC legislative body. Tell me who you vote for, and I'll tell you what you are?! In His grip, Bonny Sisson Stilwell Concord, NC
  7. Kathy
    January 09, 17:32 Reply
    If you voted to keep the ACC out, then "man up" and say so!
  8. Bob
    January 23, 16:38 Reply
    Keep HB2 / Dump ACC

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