Pitts, Swett named to UNC Board of Governors.

Record Number: 
PITT001
Citation: 

"Pitts, Swett named to UNC Board of Governors." Fayetteville Observer Wednesday, April 4, 2007.

Annotation: 

Purnell Swett, formerly the superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County, has been elected to a four-year term on the 32-member Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina. Swett was nominated by the State House of Representatives. He received the second highest number of votes on the 14-name ballot. The House elects eight members and the Senate eight members of the Board of Governors every two years.

Dr. Ruth Dial Woods has also served on the Board of Governors.

Note: Purnell Swett was superintendent of the (pre-merger) county school system of Robeson County. When he retired in 1989, West Robeson High School was renamed Purnell Swett High School in his honor. In December 1992, Swett was named superintendent of the merged Public Schools of Robeson County. He served in that position until his resignation in November, 1997.

Additional references:
Kelly, Deborah. "High school named for Purnell Swett." Robesonian 25 June 1989: 1A.

Bigelow, Scott. "Top school post is offered to Purnell Swett." Robesonian 2 December 1992: A1, 10A.

ROBE004. “Robeson schools' superintendent quits.” News and Observer (Raleigh, NC) 22 November 1997: A3.

"Ex-schools Superintendent Swett to join UNC Board of Governors." Robesonian Thursday, April 5, 2007.

"Back to school." Robesonian Friday, April 6, 2007.
This editorial provides more information on the career and contributions of Purnell Swett, particularly the 1997 incident that led to his resignation as superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County. Swett took an Alford Plea, meaning that he did not admit guilt but was treated as if he had been found guilty. He repaid $13,000 of the money he had given himself without the school board's authorization, and he received a suspended sentence of 45 days in jail. The editorialist supports the state House's appointment of Swett to the UNC Board of Governors, believing that they looked at his many years of contributions to education in Robeson County and the state as a whole, and that they saw the 1997 incident as a lapse of judgement. The editorialist concludes, "We believe strongly in redemption, and Swett is now well-seated to build on his educational accomplishments, the bulk of which have been on behalf of Robesonians."

Johnson, Mark. "UNC board member likely to bow out." Charlotte Observer Thursday, May 17, 2007.
This article explains that North Carolina House Speaker Joe Hackney told the Charlotte Observer on Wednesday that Swett "likely will choose not to assume office and will allow us to find another candidate. . . . I hope that's the case." The article adds that this incident highlights issues about how members of the Board of Governors are chosen. The House and the Senate each elect members, rather than having them appointed by the governor or by leaders in the legislature. Speaker Hackney has raised issues about whether Swett could assume his position on the board, since the state constitution forbids individuals to hold office if they have been convicted of certain crimes, and it is uncertain whether Swett's offense, and the Board position, are pertinent. Rep. Doug Yongue, who nominated Swett, stated that he did not know of Swett's offense when he nominated him. Although Yongue believes Swett is well qualified, he "would have had second thoughts" about the nomination had he known of the offense.

Locklear, Mark. "Pressure mounting on Swett." Robesonian Monday, May 21, 2007.
This article reports that although Purnell Swett is scheduled to begin his term on the UNC Board of Governors on July 1, "leaders in the state House," perhaps led by House Speaker Joe Hackney, are urging him to step down from his appointment. Hackney's spokesperson, Bill Holmes, stated that Hackney "feels it would be best for everybody if Mr. Swett would step aside so this wouldn't be an issue for him or the people that supported him.” Swett was nominated by Rep. Doug Yongue, whose district includes part of Robeson County and who himself served as an assistant superintendent in the Robeson County school system. He left the school system five years before the incident for which Swett was charged with a misdemeanor. Rep. Ronnie Sutton, who served as Swett's attorney during the 1997 incident, asked Yongue to nominate Swett for the position. Sutton explained that the nomination process for the Board of Governors asks about felonies but not misdemeanors.

"Swetting it out." Robesonian Monday, May 21, 2007.
The editorialist comments on the fact that Purnell Swett is reportedly thinking about whether to resign before assuming the position on the UNC Board of Governors to which he was elected early in April. The editorialist maintains that "it's a shame" that Swett's misdemeanor is being "unnecessarily" brought back into public discourse. We are reminded that Swett still maintains he was owed the $13,000 as a bonus; that Rep. Doug Yongue maintains that he did not know of Swett's Alford plea to a misdemeanor; and that Rep. Ronnie Sutton is not concerned about the misdemeanor, since the nomination form asked only about felonies. The editorialist asserts that "this mess was made mostly by Reps. Doug Yongue and Ronnie Sutton," adding that many other qualified candidates, and specifically many other qualified Lumbees," who don't bring Swett's baggage" could have been nominated if diversity were the goal of the nomination. After praising Swett's contributions to education in Robeson County, the editorialist concludes, "We don't know if Swett will resign - in the past he has show himself stubborn, especially when cornered - or if he will fight on and risk a forced exit. But his departure seems assured, and then we will all be left to contemplate the futility of it all."

"Swett won't take seat on UNC board." ABC News 11 [Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville] Tuesday, May 22, 2207.
URL: http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/story?section=central&id=5326996 Accessed May 23, 2007.
This Associated Press report explains that Swett has e-mailed state House Speaker Joe Hackney that he will not assume his position on the UNC Board of Governors because he does not wish to be a distraction for the board.

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