CFCC Trustee’s attorney sheds light on allegations against Funderburk, denies validity

“This is a witch hunt and we know who it’s led by.”
CFCC Trustee’s attorney sheds light on allegations against Funderburk, denies validity
Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 10:30 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - As Cape Fear Community College trustee Ray Funderburk prepares for a meeting called to discuss his potential removal from the Board of Trustees, his attorney says the allegations he is facing are untrue.

Attorney Gary Shipman says he was shocked when reading through what he describes as baseless allegations against Funderburk.

“It is a setup,” said Shipman. “It is a direct retaliation against this Board of Trustees member for being critical of the very person he’s supposed to be critical of: the president of Cape Fear Community College.”

The CFCC Board of Trustees is meeting Wednesday to discuss the possibility of Funderburk’s removal. Shipman says Funderburk was only made aware of the allegations on Monday.

“He was confronted with the allegations that on February 1, he met with an instructor and he allegedly attempted to persuade an instructor to change a grade,” explained Shipman.

Shipman says that Chair Bill Cherry and Vice Chair Jason McLeod plan to present allegations at Wednesday’s meeting that Funderburk used his position of power to pressure a teacher to change a student’s grade. The student involved is a dual enrollment student, meaning they are getting credit at both the high school and community college level.

According to the allegations, the student is failing a course, preventing him or her from playing baseball. Shipman says someone reached out to Funderburk about the student’s situation and he met with the dean of the college to learn more about the dual enrollment program and find out if students are properly being prepared for what is expected in these courses.

The teacher involved wrote a letter, obtained by our media partner WHQR, saying “the amount of correspondence I’ve had with coaches, parents and a trustee member is troubling.” The letter does not name Funderburk or explicitly say that he asked for the student’s grade to be changed.

“If that letter was intended to make clear that Ray Funderburk tried to get this instructor instead of, allegedly, the coach or other members of the Cape Fear community, why didn’t the letter say that? Because he didn’t do it,” said Shipman.

In emails between Shipman and the college’s attorney, it’s revealed that Funderburk is accused of either making it look like he was trying to influence the teacher or directly attempting to influence the teacher to make the grade change. Shipman says both are untrue and even the teacher involved did not make that claim.

“His letter concluded with a request that those at Cape Fear Community College look into the very issues that Ray Funderburk was concerned about,” said Shipman. “What do the high schools need to do better to prepare these kids? What do we, as Cape Fear Community College, need to do better for kids like this in this program? It had nothing to do whatsoever with the notion of asking an instructor to change a grade.”

The teacher’s letter concludes with him or her saying, “Moving forward, I hope there are changes regarding high school/dual-enrolled students are prepared while taking courses at CFCC.”

The letter WHQR obtained redacted the names of the teacher and student.

Shipman also says that because CFCC is on spring break, neither the dean nor the teacher involved in this dispute will be at Wednesday’s meeting to allow for a proper investigation.

Also, in emails between attorneys, it’s revealed that Funderburk is accused of making “statements placing CFCC in disrepute,” when he questioned why the media wasn’t asked to attend a Black History Month event.

“The unnamed staff people who were allegedly bothered by Ray’s comments that he wished the media was present — where are they to express that they think that his comments were intended to place Cape Fear Community College in disrepute?” asked Shipman.

The allegations come just nine months after the New Hanover County school board appointed Funderburk to the CFCC board. During that time, Funderburk has been critical of several issues.

That’s why Shipman believes his client is being retaliated against and calls for other trustees to “do what’s right.”

“What I hope this will do is light a fire under certain members of the Board of Trustees that I know to be good people and that they will not sit back and let this happen because they know that if they do, they’re next,” said Shipman.

WECT reached out to CFCC’s communications office for comment but did not get a response before deadline.