Harry Smith resigning as UNC chairman; says dispute with Vidant resolved

WASHINGTON, NC (WITN) - An Eastern Carolina businessman says he is resigning as head of the UNC Board of Governors.

Harry Smith confirmed to WITN News that he is stepping down as chairman of the system board effective October 1st.

Smith, who is a Washington businessman, was appointed to the UNC board in 2013 and his term runs through 2021. He was unanimously elected as chair in July 2018.

Smith said the growing demands of a new business venture requires him to step down as chairman.

He told WITN's Grace Holland that another reason he is resigning as chairman is that the dispute between UNC, Vidant Medical Center, and Pitt County, is resolved.

In April, the hospital and Pitt County commissioners changed how board appointments to Vidant were made, taking away all of UNC's appointments.

UNC & ECU sued the hospital and the county, saying there was a standing contract that allowed the UNC Board of Governors to appoint some members to the hospital's board of trustees. In return, the UNC System agreed not to build a separate teaching hospital for the school that would have competed with Vidant.

Smith wouldn't give any details of the agreement with Vidant but did say it was a compromise from both sides and that their board approved it on Friday.

WITN reached out to both Vidant and the county for their reaction. In a statement, Pitt County says as far as they are aware, the dispute is still an active lawsuit "and we are continuing to negotiate with all parties involved."

“Vidant Health remains committed to the mediation process and we will continue to work with all parties involved to ensure we have sustainable health care and medical education for the region,” the hospital said in a statement.

In March, Smith denied playing a part in the ouster of ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton. ECU Trustee's Chairman Kieran Shanahan accused Smith of lying about not being involved in the removal.

“We are grateful for Harry’s service, strong leadership, and selfless commitment to both the UNC System and the Board of Governors,” said Bill Roper, UNC System interim president. “I have valued his support, leadership, and friendship throughout this past year, and look forward to his continuing contributions on the Board of Governors.”