On Wednesday—before the long Thanksgiving weekend—the UNC Board of Governors agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the North Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans over Silent Sam, the monument demonstrators had toppled in August 2018

WRAL published a story on the settlement at 2:13 p.m. 

Under the terms of the consent decree—which the BOG had approved during a closed session that morning—the neo-Confederate group would receive the 106-year-old monument plus $2.5 million in “non-state funds” for a “charitable trust” to care for it. The charitable trust can build a permanent home for the monument, just not near a UNC campus. 

About an hour after the BOG met to consider the settlement, the Sons of Confederate Veterans served the university with the lawsuit that the Board of Governors had already agreed to settle. 

You read that correctly: The lawsuit was filed, served, and settled on the same day—the day before Thanksgiving—with the UNC Board of Governors agreeing to pay the Sons of Confederate Veterans millions of dollars to honor a controversial statue that had been a source of division on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus for decades.  

This odd timing was discovered by T. Greg Doucette—an attorney, former Board of Governors member, and INDY Voices columnist—who posted a Twitter thread on it Saturday. 

I’m not sure if this article’s authors, @NickAtNews and @mihirzaveri, are active on Twitter

But I want to thank them for one particular sentence, because it prompted me to do some searching – and it turns out the fix was in well ahead of time

Walk with me…

1/ https://t.co/dcEhItdcPs— T. Greg “The Settlement was a Scam” Doucette (@greg_doucette) November 30, 2019

In the thread, Doucette explained that he was drawn to one particular line in The New York Times’s write-up of Silent Sam’s disposition, in which the Times reporters asked the commander of the SCV when his group had filed the lawsuit—which had never been announced. He didn’t know. That was curious. 

“I litigate for a living; several friends do too,” Doucette wrote. “Needless to say several of us noticed there was quite a bit missing from the news coverage and subsequent tweets: Where was the Complaint? Was it filed in District or Superior Court? Was it competently drafted? Timely served?”

So he logged into VCAP, a system for tracking civil cases in North Carolina. He found the case and posted three screengrabs that showed when the lawsuit was filed, when UNC was served, and when UNC filed its answer to the lawsuit. All of them were the same day: November 27, the day UNC announced the consent decree.

In the second image—“acceptance of service”—notice the check-in time: 11:00 a.m. That’s when UNC was served with the lawsuit. However, days earlier, the Board of Governors had announced a closed meeting by teleconference at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday to discuss a “legal matter.” Presumably, the legal matter was the Silent Sam settlement.

Based on these documents, the BOG had secretly negotiated with the Sons of Confederate Veterans over the settlement before the SCV filed its lawsuit.

“Amazing how quickly the University can move when it involves paying out $2,500,000.00 in donor money to build a Klan mausoleum!” Doucette wrote. “To ‘settle’ a lawsuit that didn’t exist.”

Immediately after it was announced, the settlement drew a backlash

“The University where I work just gave $2.5 million to a neo-Confederate group to protect a Confederate monument (to people they’re not even related to) erected 50 years after the Civil War,” UNC-Chapel Hill history professor William Sturkey tweeted Thursday. “In 2019, UNC-Chapel Hill is funding white nationalism. Disgusting.”

The University where I work just gave $2.5 million to a neo-Confederate group to protect a Confederate monument (to people they’re not even related to) erected 50 years after the Civil War: https://t.co/SPXSBuYz09

In 2019, UNC-Chapel Hill is funding white nationalism. Disgusting— William Sturkey (@william_sturkey) November 28, 2019

The rapid-fire timing of the BOG’s giveaway to the SCV is likely to draw more scrutiny this week, as reporters get access to the court filings and request communications between the BOG and SCV.

As fair-elections advocate and attorney Aylett Colston noted on Twitter, the BOG is appointed by the General Assembly, which is controlled by Republicans who have received $21,500 over the last two years from the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ PAC, NC Heritage. 

That’s quite a return on investment. 

Contact staff writer Thomasi McDonald at tmcdonald@indyweek.com. 

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One reply on “UNC’s Board of Governors Apparently Agreed to a $2.5M Silent Sam Settlement Before a Lawsuit Existed”

  1. The $2.5 Million is a payoff from the GOP to a loyal constituency. Hidden racism is still racism, and the GOP relies on code-word manipulation. The S.C.V. never renounced statements of Confederate government officials about the racist purposes of the Confederacy in the Confederate Constitution and VP Alexander Stephens’ “Cornerstone Speech” and, I’d bet, vote GOP in near unanimity. Being a s.C.v. myself, I might’ve joined otherwise.

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