Former CFCC Board of Trustees member reacts to possible removal of trustee

“Every board member who can go along with this travesty should resign tomorrow.”
Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 11:14 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - As the position of a Cape Fear Community College Board of Trustees member may be on the line, a former member says it’s President Jim Morton who should leave the board, instead.

A memorandum from Morton’s office said a special meeting of the board is happening Wednesday. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the potential removal of a Trustee “pursuant to North Carolina General Statute 115D-19(a).” The meeting is open to the public.

“It’s kind of important that you understand the difference between governance and setting policy or being in administration and the role of the board is really to set policy and make sure we don’t blur the lines,” said Board of Trustees member Jonathan Barfield.

Though Barfield couldn’t confirm, a source close to the matter tells WECT the trustee in question is Ray Funderburk. The New Hanover County School Board unanimously appointed Funderburk to the CFCC board nine months ago.

“It’s a challenging thing when you find a board in disharmony,” said Barfield. “I definitely want to hear everything that’s offered and make an informed decision.”

Jimmy Hopkins, a former CFCC trustee, was in Funderburk’s shoes just last fall when there were calls to have him removed. He stepped down before that could happen, ending his ten-year tenure.

Julia Olson-Boseman, then-chairwoman of the New Hanover Board of Commissioners who oversees the Board of Trustees says it was because of too many missed meetings. Hopkins believes it was personal.

“Bow down to the county commissioners under threat of being removed from the board or step down,” said Hopkins. “A second one in less than five months? Where does it stop?”

Hopkins describes a tumultuous atmosphere among board members leading up to his departure in October 2022.

“At no point in the decade that I served have I seen a more divisive, intentional board to be divisive than this one.”

Much of that, he says, comes from the top. He believes it’s not Funderburk who needs to go, but the college president.

“I would call on Mr. Morton to step down,” said Hopkins. “If the college staff and faculty do not trust you and you have a board that can be swayed by your word, then you’re not doing the job of president of the college.”

Hopkins believes trustees are at the mercy of Morton even though it should be the other way around.

“The president of the college needs to serve. Does not need to dictate, does not need to have minions to do his bidding, but needs to listen, honor the discourse, honor the disagreements.”

He says some members are even afraid to speak in opposition to the president for fear of retaliation.

“I’m proof that it happens,” said Hopkins. “If Mr. Funderburk is removed, I think the state sincerely needs to look at what’s going on at Cape Fear Community College.”

Hopkins’s one piece of advice for Funderburk is to fight back. He says not fighting back when he was in question is one thing he regrets.

Funderburk has a history of voicing his concerns and sometimes butting heads with Morton. Last summer, he was the only trustee to vote against giving Morton a raise.

“Mr. Funderburk is an honorable man who happens to speak his mind and that’s being penalized and punished,” said Hopkins. “He disagreed with Mr. Morton and you can’t get more personal than that.”

Barfield seems to think differing opinions on the board can be healthy.

“I would never discount the diversity of thought and making sure that you’re hearing different thoughts and different people because we all come to the table with different thoughts and different understandings,” said Barfield.

The question remains: will that be enough to keep Funderburk in his seat?