John Charles Boger: Facts on Nichol’s forum

March 27, 2014 

Francis X. De Luca’s March 25 Point of View “ Why conservatives should crave sunshine, too” expressed the view that open government is healthier for all residents, a view I share. Regrettably, greater access to information doesn’t always ensure greater accuracy.

After using Open Records Act procedures to investigate the UNC Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity, De Luca maintains that the center and its director, Gene Nichol, “violated university policy by holding a closed forum” last November on issues of poverty, “using taxpayer money – your money.” Those statements are false; repeating them often can’t make them any truer.

For the past four years, the poverty center has not expended taxpayer money; all of its operating expenses come from private sources. Moreover, no university policies were violated by the conduct of this meeting. An “open meetings” law applies to decision-making or administrative policy meetings but not to most university gatherings. Evolutionary biologists can meet without inviting skeptics of evolution. Banking law professors gather without Marxists or socialists.

Professor Nichol’s conference was attended by leading grant makers, scholars and advocates concerned about rising poverty in North Carolina, a serious issue. A WUNC reporter attended and reported on the meeting.

De Luca may not like the center’s point of view, and he’s free regularly to say so. Residents should know, though, that their “taxpayer money” did not fund this meeting, nor did the forum violate any policies or state laws.

John Charles Boger

Dean, UNC School of Law

Chapel Hill

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