UNC's Kupec worked to establish job eventually given to Tami Hansbrough

Tami Hansbrough was qualified, says official at UNC-Chapel Hill

dkane@newsobserver.comSeptember 12, 2012 

A fundraising position at UNC-Chapel Hill filled by Tami Hansbrough was the result of direct efforts by Matt Kupec, the university’s chief fundraiser who was also in a relationship with her, a top university administrator acknowledged in an interview Tuesday.

The $95,000-a-year job for Hansbrough was also funded by Kupec’s office, said Winston Crisp, the university’s vice chancellor for student affairs.

The job for Hansbrough, who is the mother of former UNC basketball star Tyler Hansbrough, is listed on organizational charts as being part of Crisp’s office – an arrangement approved by Crisp and UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp that allowed the university to bypass concerns about the relationship and move Hansbrough into the job.

Tami Hansbrough is now on administrative leave, and Kupec abruptly resigned Sunday night. Thorp said Monday that university officials had found “personally driven travel” involving Kupec and Hansbrough that was “unacceptable.”

Four weeks ago, The News & Observer began seeking records related to the travel, but the university has not yet provided the records.

Kupec’s resignation has added to the string of embarrassing revelations at UNC-CH, which include a yearlong investigation into academic fraud involving athletes in the school’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies. Thorp recently turned to former Gov. Jim Martin to lead an independent probe, and the State Bureau of Investigation is also on the case.

Kupec’s relationship with Hansbrough raises questions about the mother of a basketball star getting two jobs at the university, and it has brought to light Tami Hansbrough’s past activities in Mississippi, where another of her sons was playing basketball in 2007.

A new gift officer

Kupec had initially established a new fundraising position in his own office, and Hansbrough expressed interest in it, Thorp said Monday. Thorp said he intervened when he learned of the possible hiring, citing his knowledge of the relationship and nepotism rules that would prevent Kupec from having Hansbrough work in his office.

In an interview, Thorp said he supported the ultimate arrangement of having Hansbrough work in the student affairs fundraising job – one that he said was the result of a wide search for a “gifts officer” who would raise money from parents.

Crisp said Tuesday that he did not immediately know how much money Hansbrough had raised for his office, but he said that she had performed well in the position.

Asked whether he had initiated the creation of the position, Crisp said: “It was a position that Vice Chancellor Matt Kupec and I talked about putting together jointly. Ultimately, the final hiring decision was mine.”

Asked to clarify, he said: “Matt came to me to propose that we work together on a major gift officer for parents. That was a position that I had been interested in for quite some time but had not had the ability to fund. But it was Matt who approached me with the initial conversation of having a major gift officer for parents of children.”

Crisp said that Hansbrough’s name never came up in the conversations about the new position. He said he did not believe that he had previously requested such a position in writing.

Hansbrough began the job on Valentine’s Day in 2011.

Lawsuit in Mississippi

Crisp said in the interview that Hansbrough’s hiring was the result of a search committee’s unanimous recommendation. He said he was unaware of any concerns about Hansbrough’s travel with Kupec until the chancellor spoke with Crisp late last week.

Kupec declined to comment Tuesday. Hansbrough could not be reached.

Thorp has said he learned from Kupec sometime in the fall of 2009 that Kupec and Hansbrough, a former Miss Missouri, were in a relationship.

Around that time, records show, both Kupec and Hansbrough were also in the midst of court actions involving allegations of affairs.

In September 2009, Hansbrough was sued in Mississippi by a woman who alleged that Hansbrough broke up her marriage.

In October 2009, Kupec separated from his wife with the intent to divorce, records show. His wife alleged “marital misconduct” in court papers, but the documents do not detail further allegations.

Two UNC jobs

Tami Hansbrough, who was divorced, had moved from Missouri to live near Mississippi State University, where her son Ben played basketball in 2007.

Lisa Fritz alleged in court documents that beginning in 2007, Hansbrough had seduced Fritz’s husband, leading to his separation from her in early 2008 and then divorce. Fritz, who could not be reached Tuesday, alleged emotional distress and sought damages.

By the middle of 2008, Ben Hansbrough transferred to Notre Dame, and Tami Hansbrough has said she started looking to be closer to Tyler in Chapel Hill as he began his senior season with the Tar Heels.

She was first hired for a fundraising job in the UNC-CH dentistry school’s foundation in December 2008, records show.

The university’s announcement at the time said Tami Hansbrough “has led marketing efforts related to medical organizations and outreach – including her leadership of a woman’s health fair in her former state of Missouri.”

The news release did not mention that she lived more recently in Mississippi or detail any work history there.

Tami Hansbrough said at the time that the athletics department was not involved in her hiring.

The bankruptcy case

As the court action brought by Fritz against her was pending, Hansbrough filed for bankruptcy in December 2009, at first listing assets of $28,126 and liabilities of $47,161. Her salary was about $82,000 per year.

She later amended court records to reflect a possible liability to Fritz of $1 million because of Fritz’s claim.

The dispute between Fritz and Hansbrough was dismissed by both as Hansbrough’s bankruptcy process wrapped up.

“Well, Ms. Hansbrough filed for bankruptcy, and that claim got pulled into bankruptcy, and that was pretty much the end of it,” said Fritz’s lawyer, R.H. “Bo” Burress III of Booneville, Miss.

Notre Dame games

Thorp said an initial review of records suggested that Hansbrough and Kupec were traveling to places where Ben Hansbrough was playing for Notre Dame, trips that would not be related to UNC business.

He has not disclosed more.

Crisp said Tuesday that he was also aware of Hansbrough’s relationship with Kupec and that he knew they had traveled together. But he viewed her as a great fit for a job that would require interaction with parents.

He said he could not say whether Kupec had Hansbrough in mind for the position all along.

“You know, I can’t begin to tell you that I know what Vice Chancellor Kupec’s motivations were or were not at this stage,” Crisp said. “What I can tell you is that there were absolutely legitimate reasons for us to create the position, and I can tell you that, without regard for what his motivations may or may not have been, it was a standard, independent, wide-open, full search that I have every confidence in how it operated.

“Without regard to what Matt may or may not have been doing, Tami emerged as the appropriate candidate outright.”

Kane: 919-829-4861