Editorials

UNC-Chapel Hill gets yet more high-priced legal help

Well, there's this to say about the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and its penchant for hiring outside lawyers: It doesn't go on the cheap.

No store-front attorneys here. The university just paid over $3 million to former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein and his associates to investigate a disgraceful academic scandal that involved phony classes to help athletes. Now, it has opened a tab with another big-time attorney.

Former Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will be on the team from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. There's no cap on the amount the firm can charge and no time limit on how long it will work for the university, a UNC spokesperson said. Partners in the firm will charge $990 an hour and associates $450 an hour.

The firm will help with the bogus class-academic scandal and with responding to a federal investigation of claims the university mishandled and underreported sexual assault cases.

UNC-Chapel Hill has its own staff attorneys, although its lead counsel recently left for another university. And it also has another firm working to handle an investigation by the NCAA, the weak governing body of college athletics that is investigating the academic scandal.

The money to pay the outside help is coming, the university says, from a university foundation, not from taxpayers.

But that doesn't mean the taxpayers who in effect founded this university and own it should rest easy and think all's well here. This is money that could alleviate a host of student needs or pay for worthy projects pertaining to the campus or community. Instead, it will go to deal with problems that never should have happened and, once found, should have been faced and not "managed."

Instead, the public and alumni continue to see the price of scandal, and the meter still is running.

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