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UNC-CH students, faculty want money from 'Silent Sam' side deal returned

Posted February 19, 2020 11:56 a.m. EST
Updated February 21, 2020 12:36 p.m. EST

— Days after a judge voided a $2.5 million deal to give the controversial "Silent Sam" monument to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, attorneys representing University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students and faculty are demanding that money given to the SCV in a separate deal be returned to the school.

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour ruled last week that the SCV didn't have the legal right to negotiate a deal with UNC leaders for Silent Sam, a Confederate monument that stood on the Chapel Hill campus for more than a century before protesters pulled it down in August 2018.

Under the deal, which a UNC Board of Governors committee approved in November, the SCV took possession of the statue, and UNC-Chapel Hill put $2.5 million into a trust for the group to preserve it, as long as it wasn't located in any of the 14 North Carolina counties where a UNC campus is located.

Days before that deal was approved, UNC leaders struck a side deal with the SCV for $74,999, purportedly to keep the group from displaying any Confederate flags or other banners during any demonstrations on UNC system campuses for five years. But Boyd Sturges, the SCV's attorney, later acknowledged that the money was passed through to the United Daughters of the Confederacy so the SCV could stake an ownership claim to Silent Sam. The UDC had paid some money to have the statue put on the Chapel Hill campus in the early 1900s.

The side agreement was put in place in case the $2.5 million settlement deal fell apart, according to Sturges, and Baddour didn’t address it when he threw out the main settlement.

Attorneys Elizabeth Haddix and Mark Dorosin, who represent UNC-Chapel Hill students and faculty members who fought to block the Silent Sam deal, sent letters Tuesday to Ripley Rand, the attorney representing UNC in the deal and Sturges, as well as to Sara Powell, the president of the local UDC chapter, saying that the $74,999 needs to be paid back to the university.

The letters state that paying the UDC "for assignment of its non-existent interest" in Silent Sam violates the emoluments section of North Carolina's constitution, as the group obtained state money where no public services were involved.

Attorney General Josh Stein was sent copies of all of the letters, but its unclear whether the Attorney General's Office will step into the dispute. The $74,999 was a dollar under the threshold at which the office is required to review payments made by state agencies.

Baddour's ruling dissolves the $2.5 million trust, and lawyers for UNC and the SCV are now trying to work out the details of returning Silent Sam and the money to the university. Baddour issued an order Thursday that the statue be returned within 45 days.

The order also called for the trustee to provide an accounting of the $2.5 million in the trust within 10 days. Sturges already took $52,000 from the trust to pay for his work.

Haddix and Dorosin said in their letter to Sturges that they would like word from him by March 2 that he has returned that money to the trust.

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