Opinion

Legal fees still piling up in Chapel Hill

From an editorial Monday in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:

Well, there’s this to say about UNC-Chapel Hill and its penchant for hiring outside lawyers: It doesn’t go on the cheap.

No store-front attorneys here. The university just paid over $3 million to former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein and his associates to investigate a disgraceful academic scandal that involved phony classes to help athletes. Now, it has opened a tab with another big-time attorney.

Former Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will be on the team from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. There’s no cap on the amount the firm can charge and no time limit on how long it will work for the university. Partners will charge $990 an hour and associates $450 an hour.

The firm will help with the bogus class-academic scandal and with responding to a federal investigation of claims the university mishandled and underreported sexual assault cases.

UNC-Chapel Hill has its own staff attorneys, although its lead counsel recently left for another university. And it also has another firm working to handle an investigation by the NCAA.

The money to pay the outside help is coming from a university foundation, not from taxpayers.

But that doesn’t mean the taxpayers who in effect founded this university should rest easy. This is money that could alleviate student needs or pay for worthy campus or community projects.

Instead, the public and alumni continue to see the price of scandal, and the meter still is running.

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