Education

UNC board chairman says Roper didn’t intentionally hide his corporate board seats

UNC Board of Governors chairman and UNC Interim President discuss issues facing the university system

Chairman Harry Smith and Interim President Dr. William Roper cover topics like the future of Silent Sam and hiring a new chancellor in Chapel Hill as they meet with the media
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Chairman Harry Smith and Interim President Dr. William Roper cover topics like the future of Silent Sam and hiring a new chancellor in Chapel Hill as they meet with the media

The leader of the UNC System Board of Governors said he supports the Dr. William Roper, interim president of the UNC System, after a TV news investigation found that Roper did not report his corporate board service on state ethics forms.

WBTV reported Tuesday that Roper, former CEO of the UNC Health Care System, did not disclose his position on multiple corporate boards while they did business with the state.

While there is “no law that prohibits state government employees from serving on corporate boards or from making extra income from private companies,” WBTV reported, those employees must disclose their “service on private boards, private income and any business between those businesses and the state” on the statement of economic interest form.

Roper amended those forms last week after WBTV asked about the issue for its story. WBTV is an affiliate partner of The News & Observer’s sister paper, The Charlotte Observer.

Harry Smith, the UNC System board chairman, acknowledged Roper’s error Wednesday but said he is not concerned about it. Smith told The News and Observer he’s confident that while Roper made a few mistakes regarding the forms, there was no malice behind it.

Smith also said that he, along with vice chairman Randy Ramsey and board member Wendy Murphy, independently reviewed the forms and the circumstances and agreed that Roper wasn’t intentionally hiding anything.

“The disclosures were there,” Smith said. “Forms can be complicated. I don’t think there was any intent behind that at all.”

In a statement released Wednesday, Smith said Roper’s public board service was “well known” while he was CEO of the UNC Health Care System.

“That information was available to the general public on the Health Care System’s public website and open to examination in public filings with and evaluations by the Securities and Exchange Commission,” Smith said in the statement. “Dr. Roper also fully disclosed his board service to us when the Board of Governors appointed him as interim president and received authorization to continue his service.”

The Board of Governors is not aware of any instances in which Dr. Roper involved himself in a decision that presented a conflict, Smith said in the statement. He added that the UNC Health Care System provided documents that show Roper was “careful to avoid any conflicts.”

“We are in full support of Dr. Roper and look forward to his continued service to the UNC System,” Smith said in the statement.

The UNC System board will further discuss whether Roper has any conflict of interest when all the members meet at the next meeting on Sept. 19 and 20, according to Smith.

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Kate Murphy covers higher education for The News & Observer. Previously, she covered higher education for the Cincinnati Enquirer on the investigative and enterprise team and USA Today Network. Her work has won state awards in Ohio and Kentucky and she was recently named a 2019 Education Writers Association finalist for digital storytelling.
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