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Judge says most — but not all — of $2.5 million from Silent Sam deal must go back to UNC

Judge says most — but not all — of $2.5 million from Silent Sam deal must go back to UNC

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Confederate Monuments-North Carolina

Police stand guard after the Confederate statue known as Silent Sam was toppled by protesters on campus at UNC-Chapel Hill on Aug. 20, 2018.

An Orange County judge ruled Wednesday that most of the $2.5 million in the deal for the Silent Sam Confederate statue will be returned to the UNC System, but not all of it.

Nearly $82,000 has either already been spent on the attorney for the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans or needs to be paid for legal services related to the trust, according to court documents.

Judge Allen Baddour voided the controversial settlement in February. The deal, negotiated behind closed doors, was originally made in November 2019 and gave the SCV ownership of the statue and access to $2.5 million to preserve and display it.

With his decision to overturn that deal, Baddour ordered that the trust fund be dissolved and the money returned to the UNC System.

But some of the money had already been spent. The SCV’s attorney, Boyd Sturgess, said the group had used $52,000 from the trust for his legal fees.

The judge also asked for an accounting of other expenses, which were all related to the trust and noted in the court order. Those payments include $9,736 to the law firm of Smith Debnam Narron Drake Saintsing & Myers, LLP for legal services; $2,582 to the law firm Narron Wenzel, P.A. for legal services and tax advice; and $17,542.50 to Matthew McGonagle, who managed the trust.

The judge approved those costs, saying they are “reasonable” and “necessary” and would be distributed within 10 days, according to court documents.

The remaining balance in the trust, which is just under $2.42 million, will be returned to the UNC System within 10 days and then to UNC-Chapel Hill, which initially transferred the funds for the settlement.

At that point, the trust will be dissolved.

The judge also extended the time for the SCV to return the Silent Sam statue to the UNC System to May 5 because of the “situation with COVID-19.”

When the UNC System regains physical ownership of the statue, the court will dismiss the case.

Then it will again be up to the UNC System and its Board of Governors to decide what to do with the Confederate monument.

UNC System Interim President Bill Roper and Board of Governors Chairman Randy Ramsey have said the statue will not be their primary focus. But they, along with UNC-Chapel Hill leaders, have made clear that the statue will not return to campus.

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