ECU trustees send letter of regret for student election actions

A statue of Pee Dee the Pirate watches over ECU’s Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (Brett Friedlander/North State Journal)

RALEIGH — Two East Carolina University trustees who tried to influence a student election said in a letter that they regret that their actions.

Trustees Phil Lewis and Robbie Moore said in a Jan. 24 letter to a University of North Carolina board member that they had the “best intentions” when they recruited a student to run for president of ECU student government.

The trustees wrote that “we realize we have a responsibility to act in the very best interests of the University at all times.”

“We also realize that we have a responsibility to the UNC Board of Governors, as the governing body of the University of North Carolina system, to conduct our affairs in an honorable and transparent manner. It is with sincere regret that we acknowledge out actions have misrepresented this obligation,” the letter stated.

The letter was addressed to David Powers, chairman of the university governance committee of the UNC Board of Governors.

UNC released the letter and other records in response to a freedom of information request filed by The Associated Press and other media. Included in the records was a recording made when Lewis and Moore approached the student and a transcript of the recording. The student’s comments were edited out of the 56-page transcript.

The transcript shows Moore and Lewis telling the student they would provide funds and other assistance for a campaign for Student Government Association president. The election is scheduled for Feb. 19-21.

At one point, Lewis said he would connect the student with Angela Moss, a newly appointed trustee who was ECU’s SGA president in 1999, the Daily Reflector of Greenville reported.

“I can line that up and you can talk to her by phone or she’ll come down here. And, and, confidentially, as long as you don’t have to show where you get the money — I mean, we have no problem — I don’t have any problems supporting you,” Lewis said.

The men also discussed a 7-6 vote in July when Vern Davenport was elected chairman over Moss. The current SGA representative, Colin Johnson, voted with the majority. Moore and Lewis supported Moss.

Moore told the student that Johnson had pledged to vote for Moss but then changed his mind, resulting in a victory for Davenport.

Board members Davenport, Fielding Miller and Vince Smith, sent a complaint on Jan. 18 to the full board about the conversation. They asked the board to review the matter and take action if it found the men violated UNC policy governing the ethics of university trustees.

The trustees’ actions came to light Jan. 25 when the student government board for the UNC system called for an investigation into the actions of Lewis and Moore.

The governance committee is expected to consider the complaints when the board meets Feb. 20-21.