International law firm hired to investigate Dan Gerlach

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - An international law firm has been hired to investigate interim East Carolina University chancellor Dan Gerlach.

Gerlach was put on administrative leave last Monday after pictures and videos began circulating of him drinking alcohol, dancing and possibly engaging in inappropriate behavior with young women at uptown Greenville bars frequented by students.

The UNC System says Womble Bond Dickinson, which has offices in London, Winston-Salem and Raleigh, will conduct the investigation.

A system spokesman says the Gerlach investigation "will be concluded quickly".

Gerlach took on the job as interim chancellor back in May after Cecil Staton was forced out.

Support for Gerlach has been widespread, including online petitions and tee-shirts being printed saying "I stand with Dan".

The embattled chancellor admitted he should not have been out that late and that he made a mistake. "That is not the good optic, it was not the best decision making I've ever done," Gerlach said.


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East Carolina University's interim chancellor was back on the radio this morning, defending himself amid being suspended from his job.

Dan Gerlach told WTIB's Henry Hinton that the way the pictures and videos were assembled and sent out to the media that this may not have been a random event and that something else may be going on.

Photos of Gerlach at a Greenville bar were sent to WITN and other media outlets on Sunday. They allegedly show Gerlach drinking alcohol and acting inappropriately around students.

Gerlach was put on administrative leave pending an investigation by the UNC System.

In the photos, you see the interim chancellor interacting with an unidentified woman. He described her as "very grabby", saying he thought she grabbed him from behind and that he was trying to get away from her. In the photo where his hand is on the back of her neck, Gerlach says the woman was saying something and he was trying to hear her.

"I was perhaps more polite than I should have been," the interim chancellor told Hinton.

Gerlach admits he should not have been out that late. "I made a mistake here, Henry. That is not the good optic, it was not the best decision making I've ever done," he told Hinton.

Gerlach was appointed acting chancellor in May after Cecil Staton was forced to step down. Provost Ron Mitchelson is now acting chancellor at the university.


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East Carolina University's interim chancellor has been put on administrative leave while the provost has been named acting chancellor.

UNC Interim President Bill Roper made the announcement this morning. “In light of reports from this past weekend, ECU Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach has been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation,” Roper said in a statement.

Roper says they expect the investigation to be conducted "as thoroughly and as quickly as possible, with our first priority being what is best for East Carolina University."

Several people have taken to Twitter and Facebook to express their support for Gerlach. As of Tuesday morning, petition to "Save ECU Chancellor" has already gotten over 8,432 signatures.

WITN was the first to report questionable photos and videos of Gerlach posted on social media that show him at a Greenville bar. They allegedly show Gerlach drinking alcohol and acting inappropriately around students.

To view some of the photos, scroll to the bottom of this story.

UNC Board of Governors member Harry Smith said he "has been receiving multiple parent, faculty, and staff phone calls today with complaints."

Smith said in a statement: "I would ask that everyone please reserve judgment and allow a proper process and review by the system office and the president who are aware of the issue."

In a statement Sunday evening, Gerlach said he was only "interacting with college-aged young adults and taking selfies."

Gerlach said that he wants to be a more approachable chancellor for students. "I regret that these photos are being perceived as anything more than what they are," he said in the statement.

On Pirate Radio late this afternoon, Gerlach said one of his goals in coming to ECU was to settle things down, and admitted this doesn't help.

"I believe this a mistake, but not a fatal error. But I am a human being and I do make mistakes. I had some errors in judgment," Gerlach told the radio station.

"There's more being made out of these pictures and videos than I deserve and I don't like that at all," he said.

ECU says Provost Ron Mitchelson is now acting chancellor. Mitchelson has been at the university for 20 years, chairing several departments before becoming provost in 2015.

ECU Trustees Chairman Vern Davenport says their first priority is with the students, staff, faculty, and alumni. "Along with my fellow trustees and Acting Chancellor Ron Mitchelson, we support President Roper’s decision to conduct a thorough investigation and hope this matter will be addressed as quickly as possible," said Davenport.

The UNC Board of Governors is meeting on Tuesday in a special meeting. It's not clear if they will discuss Gerlach's future with ECU, but the agenda includes a closed portion to talk about an executive personnel matter.


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Administrators say they are "concerned" after photos surfaced of East Carolina University's Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach.

Sources tell WITN that Gerlach was recently at a bar in Greenville, allegedly drinking alcohol and acting inappropriately around students. There are also Instagram and Snapchat videos with more than 11,000 views.

UNC Board of Governors member, Harry Smith, said he "has been receiving multiple parent, faculty, and staff phone calls today with complaints."

Smith said in a statement: "I would ask that everyone please reserve judgment and allow a proper process and review by the system office and the president who are aware of the issue."

ECU Board of Trustees member Robert Moore also said he "has been getting a lot of traffic from faculty, staff, and parents" and "has been told by other parents that there is other stuff out there" and "it's been going on for a while," adding "This is very concerning without question."

On Sunday evening, Gerlach released a statement through Jeannine Manning Hutson, ECU's interim Chief Communications Officer:

"On the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 25, ECU Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach went to Sup Dogs near the campus of the university. While there he ran into two adult male acquaintances who invited him to walk down the street to join them at a local pub, which he did. Gerlach is known for taking selfies with students, staff and faculty on and off-campus. The videos and photos that WITN received show Gerlach interacting with college-aged young adults and taking selfies.

'When I first started here, and even before, one constant concern that I heard was that our students needed a leader of the university to be present and approachable, someone who can speak to them in their language. That’s what I’ve set out to do at ECU. I regret that these photos are being perceived as anything more than what they are,' said Gerlach today.

'During the time that I am interim chancellor, I will continue to work toward balancing the university’s budget and improving enrollment and will continue to engage with students and the community. On Wednesday night, I spoke with 125 proud Pirates at Cypress Glen. Because our students are the center of the university, I’ve been working hard to show up – at performances, on tours, at Fall Open House yesterday. Students are the reason the university exists.'"