If you thought the scandal that led to the resignation of interim Eastern Carolina University chancellor Dan Gerlach couldn’t get any weirder, check out this scoop from NC Policy Watch.
Policy Watch reported Friday that while the investigators hired by the UNC Board of Governors were seeking photos and video of Gerlach stumbling to his car and driving away after a night of drinking with students, former Raleigh mayor and BOG member Tom Fetzer was conducting his own investigation with the help of a lawyer who claimed he was working for top GOP officials, including Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore.
And while the BOG investigators might have been willing to slow-walk their requests for the footage until it could legally be erased, as Voices columnist and former BOG board member T. Greg Doucette wrote this week, Fetzer got results.
Peter Romary, a Greenville lawyer, was working for Fetzer when he petitioned for the release of the video on behalf of the Police Benevolent Association of North Carolina and the North Carolina Fraternal Order of Police. According to Policy Watch, emails and text messages revealed that Fetzer also pressured House Majority Leader John Bell to help him get the tapes, noting that “it goes without saying, but keeping this QUIET is essential.”
Bell responded he’d “try and work something out.”
Romary then emailed the attorney overseeing the investigation for the city of Greenville that Bell wanted to see the video.
After the texts and emails surfaced, GOP leaders distanced themselves from Romary. Berger and Bell denied any connection to him, and Bell sent him a cease and desist letter demanding that he stop requesting the video on his behalf.
Fetzer, however, didn’t shy away from his involvement with Romary. After Romary got ahold of the video, so did the local media (via anonymous leak) and Gerlach resigned.
“I’m proud of my effort to help get these tapes out, because otherwise, I don’t think the truth would have ever been known, and I believe that Dan Gerlach would have been reinstated as ECU chancellor,” Fetzer said in a WBTV interview.
This isn’t the first time Fetzer has interfered with sensitive BOG business—or the first time his freelancing has accomplished what the BOG apparently could not.
In 2018, Policy Watch reported he independently investigated a candidate for chancellor of Western Carolina University, engaging Romary to screen the candidate. That candidate, Fetzer’s investigation revealed, lied on their résumé. BOG members, however, got angry at Fetzer for going behind their backs. Indeed, Fetzer, the former chairman of the N.C. Republican Party, admitted that he had spoken to then-UNC president Margaret Spellings about serving as interim chancellor himself, though later denied he was interested in the position.
Contact staff writer Leigh Tauss at email@example.com.
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