Cary News

NC Senate elects 8, including 4 incumbents, to UNC Board of Governors

The state Senate elected eight members to the UNC Board of Governors on Wednesday, including former Republican state Sen. Thom Goolsby.

Four incumbents and four new members were chosen from a slate of 15. The eight winners included seven Republicans and one who is registered as politically unaffiliated.

The board’s chairman, John Fennebresque, a Charlotte attorney, was re-elected, as was its vice chairman, Lou Bissette, an Asheville lawyer. Members Frank Grainger, a Cary businessman, and Anna Spangler Nelson, a Charlotte businesswoman, also made the cut. Nelson is unaffiliated.

New members elected were:

▪ Goolsby, a Wilmington attorney and former Republican state senator until last year.

▪ Temple Sloan III of Raleigh, former CEO of General Parts, Inc., a large auto parts supplier.

▪ William Webb of Raleigh, a senior adviser to Shanahan Law Group and former U.S. magistrate judge.

▪ Michael L. Williford, a Fayetteville attorney.

As a legislator, Goolsby pushed the repeal of the Racial Justice Act and promoted tougher penalties for human trafficking. He was scorned by liberals when he called the “Moral Monday” protest movement “Moron Mondays.”

The election Wednesday continues the GOP’s domination of a university system governing board whose members are almost all new since Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010.

The board has come under intense criticism for what some say are politically motivated decisions. In January, the board took action to force the early retirement of UNC President Tom Ross, a Democrat, without citing a reason other than it was time for a change in leadership.

Last month, the board voted to abolish three university centers, including the UNC law school’s Center for Poverty, Work and Opportunity, whose director, Gene Nichol, had been a frequent critic of the Republican legislative leadership and Gov. Pat McCrory. That decision prompted demonstrations, petitions and condemnation from faculty leaders.

Student protesters have also complained that the 32-voting member board does not reflect the diversity of the university. The current board has seven women, two African-Americans and one Asian. Wednesday’s election would add one black member, but reduce the number of female members by one.

The board has always been made up of politically connected people and campaign contributors. Wednesday’s winners were no exception. They included some heavy donors to mostly Republican candidates. According to campaign finance reports since 2010, Fennebresque donated more than $216,000; Grainger gave more than $36,000; Williford gave more than $34,000; and Nelson, the daughter of billionaire and former UNC President C.D. Spangler Jr., gave more than $15,000.

Half of the board is up for election this year. The state House is expected to choose members from a slate of 15 nominees Thursday.

News researchers David Raynor and Peggy Neal contributed to this report.

Stancill: 919-829-4559; Twitter: @janestancill