Silent Sam

Silent Sam should be persona non grata on UNC campus

Bringing him back just isn't worth the trouble:

The question of what to do with Silent Sam — the Confederate statue that was toppled by protesters at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in August 2018 — just won’t go away.

The university thought it had found an answer in November when it reached an agreement to give the statue to the North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and fund a $2.5 million trust to display it somewhere off campus.

Actually, it wasn't the University, it was the GOP-appointed Board of Governors for the entire UNC System. Might seem like I'm nit-picking, but UNC Chapel Hill did not make this deal, would never have given neo-confederates $2.5 Million for any reason, and the failure of this author to make that distinction in the intro to this story paints all UNC grads with the same idiotic brush. Back to the disposition of the distasteful statue:

Silent Sham hearing in progress right now

Joe Killian with the Progressive Pulse is live-Tweeting:

They basically just admitted this thing was rushed to avoid the opposition they knew would surface after the deal was made public. I'll post a few more, but you should jump over to Twitter and follow it:

Silent Sham update: $74,999 went to the Daughters, not the Sons

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And it actually paved the way for the sham lawsuit itself:

Through the SCV, the UNC System directed its $74,999 payment into the hands of Sara Powell, president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy North Carolina Division Inc.

Those funds incentivized Powell to cut her own deal on behalf of the UDC, allowing the SCV to “turn around and sue the (UNC System Board of Governors), so we could settle it and give them $2.5 million,” one person close to the UNC System's board said.

It's like when you detect a suspicious odor in your fridge, and then you discover a container of ancient leftovers hidden behind other stuff. You think it smells bad before you open the lid, but then you're gagging and racing it outside to the trash can. There are so many aspects of this case that stink, but quite possibly the worst one is the effort to avoid/evade scrutiny by the Attorney General's office. The UNC Board of Governors gave away a pile of cash so they would be forced to give away a much bigger pile of cash. Forget the damn statue for a moment; that activity alone is enough to have that Board completely replaced, or at least all the Board members who were involved. But don't expect BergerMoore to lift a finger. And don't expect the Board of Governors to police itself, either:

Memorial Hall on UNC campus under scrutiny for Confederate references

A lot of history in that building, and not all of it is good:

“We have all kinds of plaques in the hallways that remind us of the founders of the University. Some of them are only identified as ‘John Smith, planter,’ and then there are other people who are identified clearly as people who are signers of the original charter, they’re important people,” Moeser said. “But on either side of the proscenium are memorial plaques to the alumni Confederate war dead."

Christina Rodriguez, associate director of marketing and communications for CPA, said at this point, CPA has officially lodged a request through former Chancellor Moeser to move the conversation about the future of the tablets forward.

And of course there's always the question of slave labor used in the construction of these really old buildings, and how many were injured (or killed) during that process.

Judge Baddour should recuse himself from Silent Sham case

Because you can't perform oversight of yourself:

The day before Thanksgiving, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) filed a lawsuit against the University of North Carolina over the "Silent Sam" Confederate monument that stood on the Chapel Hill campus before it was torn down last year by anti-racist protesters. Seven minutes later, Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour signed an order settling the case and requiring UNC to give $2.5 million to SCV to build a place to house the statue.

Going out on a limb here, because I am not a lawyer, but: The timeline (of lawsuit filed to order signed) raises some pretty big red flags. In order for the Judge's order to have been "well though-out" with all the T's crossed and I's dotted, he would have to have seen the text of the lawsuit before it was filed. And he would have had to be involved in the scheduling (timing) of the filing, so he could be available to sign off a few minutes later. Nothing wrong with that per se, it happens in civil suits from time to time. But it does demonstrate clearly that Judge Baddour was aware of the potentially huge opposition to such a deal, and the need for it to be taken care of quickly with little or no public exposure. And therein lies the problem, and the Judge's possible conflict of interest moving forward. By denying student and faculty intervention in the case, he has also blocked any "on the record" questions about his own involvement. There is no "adversarial" element in this case, no opposing counsel to present evidence, except what the Judge himself deems relevant. And since a reversal of his order would be an admission he made a mistake previously, the likelihood of that (ideal) outcome is small. Justice cannot survive under those constraints, this case needs fresh eyes.

Did Bob Rucho orchestrate the Silent Sham deal?

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It would come as no big surprise if he did:

In an email dated this February, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans asks for a meeting with UNC Board of Governors member Bob Rucho, but the documents include no other correspondence until November.

That's when the UNC System asked the attorney general's office for approval to retain outside counsel for a possible settlement regarding Silent Sam. Eight days later, the settlement was done, and UNC-Chapel Hill — the campus where the statue once stood — had been told to transfer $2,574,999 to the university system.

I generally refrain from asking questions in headlines (like the above), because it borders on a logical fallacy and can easily drag you into conspiracy theory territory. But I'm also a big fan of Occam's Razor. If the SCV wanted a meeting with Rucho back in February and didn't get it, there would likely have been some follow-up communications shortly thereafter. Since there weren't, we can assume that the meeting took place, or at least some form of communication transpired between the two entities outside of official channels. Another question that needs answering: Why did they pick Bob Rucho to meet with out of the 5 members tasked with solving the problem? I know why they didn't pick Darrel Allison, although he is probably clueless.

SCV members complain about exremist takeover of group

And it's a lot uglier than we thought:

Internal conflict has intensified within the North Carolina Division Sons of Confederate Veterans Inc. since its questionable settlement with the UNC System weeks ago. The settlement accrued the organization ownership of Silent Sam, as well as $2.5 million in UNC System money to fund the Confederate monument’s “preservation and benefit.” Kevin Stone, the state chapter’s commander, called it a “major strategic victory” for the pro-Confederate movement.

But multiple current members of the SCV chapter led by Stone, who spoke to The Daily Tar Heel and were granted anonymity based on personal safety concerns, are taking a far different tone.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts, I just wanted to comment on how very common this situation is, when petty tyrants move into positions of authority. It happens on condo boards, homeowners associations, committees and commissions, and even political party sub-groups (county, caucuses, etc.) These people will inevitably play upon your prejudices, in an effort to create an aura of conflict that doesn't exist (yet), and once placed in power they make that conflict a reality. Needless to say, when you see one of these people, run like the wind. Back to the confederacy of dunces:

Silent Sham may cost UNC millions in grant money

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The high price of irresponsibility:

UNC-Chapel Hill spokeswoman Kate Luck confirmed late Thursday that the school "is in conversations with the Mellon Foundation, one of our most valued external partners, about their concerns related to the UNC System’s legal settlement regarding the Confederate Monument.”

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is one of the largest charitable foundations in the world and a key funder of academic research. According to its publicly available database, it awarded UNC-Chapel Hill seven Mellon grants over the last three years, totaling more than $7 million​.

It's likely Republicans won't be that concerned over this, because the bulk of the Mellon grants are targeted to the Humanities, as opposed to medical research. But as a former history major myself, I have been following the UNC Humanities for several years now, and this division has contributed greatly to both the culture of NC via the arts, and a much better understanding of the social fabric holding us together. The last thing we need to do is undermine projects like this:

Civil rights group set to file lawsuit over Silent Sham

Let's get this party started:

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has been talking with potential student and faculty litigants, the group’s executive director said in an interview with Policy Watch Tuesday. They plan to file this week.

“In our view, the Sons of Confederate Veterans has perpetrated a fraud upon the court,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the committee. “They have made false representations to the court about their standing, about their ownership interest in the monument. It is clear this settlement agreement was one negotiated before the filing of the suit and a letter from SCV’s leader makes it clear they knew they lacked standing and had no jurisdiction to present this matter to the court.”

Anticipating the inevitable and painfully ironic mantra, "Another frivolous lawsuit from the Librals, who can't stand all the #Winning!" Or something equally noxious. At best, Republicans caved to a lawsuit before it was even filed. At worst, they conspired to file a lawsuit against themselves. This whole episode needs to be closely scrutinized in a court of law, and the Discovery alone will be worth the exercise:

A legal challenge to Silent Sam deal is imminent

Joe Killian at NC Policy Watch is all over this:

“I’m going to do everything I can to fight it,” Doucette said in an interview with Policy Watch Wednesday. As a student, Doucette served as president of the UNC System Association of Student Governments, which made him a non-voting member of the UNC Board of Governors in 2008. He said he’s disgusted with the way the board has handled the Silent Sam issue. Last week’s settlement led him to get actively involved.

Doucette said he’s been talking with fellow attorneys and interested parties since the settlement was announced. He’s identified a number of irregularities in everything from how the issue was handled at the Board of Governors level to the finer legal points of the settlement itself. “If I can find people willing to get involved in filing a lawsuit, I’m going to do it,” Doucette said.

I've been following Greg's progress as he's dug into this issue, starting with the leaked e-mail where Kevin Stone was bragging to his fellow SCV members about his "backroom" deal with the UNC BOG. At the heart of the (legal) matter is the fact that the SCV lawsuit would not have passed muster if UNC had actually opposed it:

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