TarHeelIllustrated - Conflict of interest in Davis firing
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Conflict of interest in Davis firing

On July 27, 2011, the new chair of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, Wade H. Hargrove, appears to have violated the State Government Ethics Act by failing to reveal a potential conflict of interest in the NCAA investigation of Carolina's football program and now-former head coach Butch Davis.
The law firm of which Hargrove is a partner -- Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, L.L.P. -- represents the Raleigh News & Observer and Capitol Broadcasting. Either Hargrove himself or his law firm has represented the News & Observer at three times in court since the late 1980s.
These cases are a public record.
Both the News & Observer and Capitol Broadcasting had sued the university for all information in regards to the NCAA investigation of the football program recently before Hargrove became chair of the Board of Trustees.
There is no evidence the firm represented either party against UNC in this particular suit, but both remain clients, which is information Hargrove should have revealed.
Brooks-Pierce-McLendon-Humphrey & Leonard Clients
(Read to the bottom of the page on this above link and you will see this firm still represents Capitol Broadcasting and the Raleigh News & Observer.)
Hargrove does not appear to have removed himself from the discussions concerning the UNC football case and/or the firing of Davis, both before and after the fact.
He had an obligation to recuse himself and to make clear the reasons for his recusal, on the record, and in a public setting.
The State Governement Ethics Act states that it is not enough for board members to have an actual conflict of interest. They must avoid all appearances of conflicts.
Whether Hargrove ever actually participated in any of the court proceedings against UNC is irrelevant in regards to the law. He is a member of the law firm that sued UNC on behalf of the Raleigh News & Observer in the past.
The N&O had repeatedly called for Davis to be fired, and Capitol Broadcasting, which also owns a Raleigh radio station that hosts a sports talk show that had consistently attacked Davis and criticized UNC for not firing him, as well as GoPack.com, the official Website of one of UNC's main rivals, N.C. State University.
Listing of Capitol's Divisions
In addition, a source close to Davis said that one of the six reasons Chancellor Holden Thorp gave Davis for firing him was the editorial pressure of the News & Observer.
The minutes from the Board of Trustees on July 27, 2011, Willis P. Whichard, former associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, administered the Oath of Office to new and reappointed members of the Board:
Hargrove was made the chair, even though he had not been in line for the duty.
Before the Board began to conduct its business, Vice Chair Barbara R. Hyde read the state law concerning ethics and conflicts of interest.
"As Chair of the Board of Trustees, it is my responsibility to remind all members of the Board of their duty under the State Government Ethics Act to avoid conflicts of interest and appearances of conflict of interest as required by this Act. Each member has received the agenda and related information for this Board of Trustees' meeting. If any Board member knows of any conflict of interest or appearance of conflict with respect to any matter coming before the Board of Trustees at this meeting, the conflict or appearance of conflict should be identified at this time."
There is no mention of anyone identifying any conflicts within the minutes. The minutes from the May 25-26, 2011 meeting were approved, and Hargrove was then elected chair.
The agenda was announced, with the following being one of the items of business:
"Football update. A lot has happened with the NCAA football investigation since we last met. We've kept you informed throughout the investigation, but receiving the letter of allegations was certainly a key marker in what is now a year-long look at our football program.
"We're working now to put together our response to the NCAA. That's due on Sept. 19. Then we'll go before the NCAA infractions committee on Oct. 28. New Faculty Chair, Jan Boxill, has agreed to pull together a group of respected faculty members who will help us consider changes or improvements to Carolina's Honor system.
"Regardless of our situation with football, it just makes good sense to seek ways to improve our commitment to honor and integrity."
It is also worth noting that university vice chancellor Matt Kupec attended the meeting that day.
He addressed the Board during one of its three closed sessions that day, sessions which the public and the media were prohibited from attending.
What is unusual is Kupec is a fundraiser who normally makes his reports during the open portion of the meetings. But on this day, the minutes read: "Matt Kupec presented naming recommendations to Committee of the Whole."
Later that day, Thorp announced he had decided to fire Davis as the Tar Heels' football coach, just one week before the start of summer training camp and only days after Davis had attended the annual ACC Football Kickoff.
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