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CFCC trustees unanimously approve minutes of Funderburk’s removal. Here’s what’s missing from the record

 March 2023 Board of Trustees meeting
Megan McDeavitt
March 2023 Board of Trustees meeting

Meeting minutes aren’t an exact transcript. But the official record of the hearing and removal of Ray Funderburk does contain a lot of detail — and a few omissions.

Thursday night was the first meeting of the Cape Fear Community College board without former CFCC Trustee Ray Funderburk III. None of the trustees mentioned his absence nor his removal on March 8.

Near the beginning of the meeting, Trustees voted unanimously and without discussion to approve the minutes — the official board record — of that meeting, along with the board’s regular meeting from January.

WHQR reviewed these minutes prior to the meeting and noted that there were some inconsistencies and omissions.

Missing from the minutes of the January meeting was Funderburk’s recommendation of conducting an independent-third party survey before President Jim Morton’s evaluation this spring. At the time, Funderburk was quickly shut down by Morton and Board Chair Bill Cherry. Comments from Funderburk, as well as several Trustees, were also missing from the March meeting.

Before the meeting, WHQR sent an email to the Director of Media Relations Christina Hallingse and board liaison Michelle Lee about the material missing from the minutes.

Hallingse responded, “minutes are not direct transcripts of a meeting. They are intended to serve as an official record of actions taken by the board.”

North Carolina’s public records law requires government boards to keep “full, accurate minutes of all portions of all official meetings" — but boards can interpret what constitutes ‘full and accurate’ differently.

The minutes from the March 8 meeting aren’t a full transcript, but they do include details, including direct quotes from the discussion, that go beyond just the actions taken by the board.

 An example of the March 8 meeting minutes
An example of the March 8 meeting minutes

What's left out?

Recording the statements of Trustee Deborah Dicks Maxwell, Michelle Lee included: “she was sad that we have to be here tonight. This reflects on the Board and the College.”

Maxwell’s fuller statement was that her sadness was attributed to calling into question the “integrity” of Funderburk and the “integrity” of the board. Maxwell also said she heard “a lot of subjective rather than objective comments” during Vice-Chair Jason McLeod’s investigation of Funderburk. Additionally, she mentioned that in her work with social justice and civil rights, “people lose their jobs in this type of manner.”

For Trustee Deloris Rhodes, Lee recorded: “this breaks her heart. We are here to provide governance. We believe in open communication. We must be able to work collaboratively. The only thing that Mr. Funderburk is guilty of is speaking out openly. When you give your voice away, you are nothing.”

Not included was Rhodes' concern that, “if we can’t express [our views], I’m worried about this faculty. Can they express them?” She added that there could have been lesser consequences that the board could have levied against Funderburk.

Lee included a comment from Barfield that suggested the attempt to remove Funderburk could cost taxpayers: “[Barfield] spoke about being able to talk to staff and help to influence their decisions. The Chair is the spokesman for the college, but I will never give on this. I need to hear from the instructor. When you interpret an email or text, it can be taken out of context. If asked to remove someone tonight, I cannot do it because if it fails, the burden is on the taxpayers.”

During the meeting, Barfield made this suggestion more explicitly, drawing a direct parallel to the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners’ ill-fated 2013 attempt to remove then-Commissioner Brian Berger. The move led to a lawsuit, which cost ten of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

“So if I'm asked to vote to remove someone based on what I've heard tonight, I couldn't do that. And I know that the end game I believe the community college is gonna lose financially, having gone through this before, with my board commissioners having removed a member, and being on the losing side. I think CFCC could eventually lose financially. And that burden is going to be on the backs of the taxpayers here because it comes from county government. I understand what you [McLeod] believe, but I need more than just belief,” Barfield said.

Lee noted that Chair Bill Cherry made two additional previously unannounced allegations against Funderburk. Funderburk objected to these — but Lee did not record any of this pushback.

The only recorded statements come from Cherry. Lee quoted Cherry directly, and also capitalized parts of Cherry’s statements for emphasis. Lee didn’t do that anywhere else in the minutes, although she did bold and underline statements by Vice-Chair Jason McLeod, who presented the case against Funderburk.

Lee recorded Cherry saying: "My observation is, Mr. Funderburk has NO remorse for the potential damage he may have caused [...] Tonight, this board needs to resolve this issue with Mr. Funderburk. We are going to have to show SACS that we did indeed fix the problem with crossing the lines of standard 4.2(b) and 22 these violations will NOT continue. The only guaranteed way to do this is by removing Mr. Funderburk.”

Not included in the minutes: Funderburk asking Cherry whether the college’s accreditation body had contacted the college over his alleged actions. Cherry said no, but that they would. Cherry told Funderburk he was the problem, but he responded that maybe it was him.

It's not the first time Funderburk’s comments — or other comments that are critical of the college’s leadership — have been omitted.

The September minutes made no mention of Funderburk raising questions to Morton about sudden changes to the compensatory leave policy that prompted the marine technology’s ship captain to resign. Back in May of 2021, former CFCC Student Body President PJ Eby gave a scathing critique of the trustees’ leadership. All that was recorded in the minute was: “Ms. Eby presented comments regarding her time as president.”

Other meeting highlights

Chair Bill Cherry announced that Morton’s annual review process had started and would conclude in April. He added that the board’s self-evaluation would be mailed along with president’s evaluation.

Morton also told the trustees that SACSCOC, the accreditation body for the college, asked them to answer additional questions about their 5th-year report submission. Morton said the college had already responded to those questions, even though they had a deadline of September 2023.

To understand the issues surrounding the report, in late February WHQR submitted a public records request, along with any emails between Morton, Lee, Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness Michael Cobb, and former Vice President of Academic Affairs Jason Chaffin. The college has yet to fill the request.

There are also a number of outstanding public records requests for the college, among those are salaries for 16 top CFCC officials, texts and emails between Cherry, Lee, Morton, and McLeod for the two weeks preceding Funderburk’s removal, and an itemized list of legal bills from Ward & Smith over the last 18 months.

Below: CFCC Board of Trustees agenda, including meeting minutes from January and the March 8 meeting.

Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR