The results of the month-long investigation into East Carolina University’s former Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach were released Friday, detailing the findings of the privately hired law firm, Womble Bond Dickinson.
Allegations against Gerlach stemming from his night out drinking at downtown Greenville bars on Wednesday, Sept. 25 into early Thursday morning, were sent in several emails to local media outlets, ECU’s Board of Trustees (BOT) members and specific members of the UNC System office, according to the Womble Bond Dickinson report.
The emails were sent from the address “firstname.lastname@example.org” and included a narrative which offered numerous allegations against Gerlach, including that he engaged in “sexual conduct in public and made inappropriate remarks,” according to the report.
Womble Bond Dickinson’s investigation findings delved into Gerlach, lawyer Peter Romary, other public figures involved, and provided a detailed timeline of the events on the night of Sept. 25. The report revealed that Gerlach did not engage in inappropriate sexual conduct or make inappropriate remarks.
“All but one of the eyewitnesses interviewed reported that Gerlach was not drunk. This impression was shared by numerous people who encountered Gerlach throughout the entire evening, including those at Sup Dogs, 519 and the 5th Street Annex. Additionally, no eyewitness reported inappropriate behavior by Gerlach consistent with intoxication,” Womble Bond Dickinson said in its investigative report.
The report additionally referenced the idea of the night being a “set up,” and said the findings from the investigation do not “entirely rule out that possibility,” while also not confirming it.
According to the report, the individual who took photos of Gerlach at Club 519, captured the situation to protect Gerlach’s reputation.
The investigative report said Romary is linked to some of the figures included in the report released Friday night, including Jeffrey Foster, Matt Davenport, and members of the ECU Board of Trustees and the UNC Board of Governors, including Vern Davenport, Fielding Miller, Max Joyner, Phil Lewis, Angela Moss, Leigh Fanning, Philip Byers, Harry Smith and others.
Romary was an employee of ECU Legal Services from 2006 to 2014. Romary said he’s additionally represented individuals who are on the ECU Board of Trustees, some on the Foreign Relations Council, and clients on legislative and governmental panels.
The Photographer, unnamed in the report, works at a local restaurant in Greenville. The report said the Photographer was overheard by Matt Davenport, who was having lunch at the restaurant on Sept. 26, talking and showing photos of Gerlach from the night before.
“About 20-25 minutes after Matt Davenport started having lunch, Matt Davenport was joined by Foster. The Photographer was unaware of Foster’s identity at the time,” according to the report. “According to the Photographer, Matt Davenport indicated that Foster was a judge and that the Photographer needed to AirDrop the photos and video on his phone to Foster. The Photographer complied.”
According to the report, Matt Davenport “denies” being present when Foster obtained the photos, and it said Davenport thinks “Foster may have gone back to the restaurant” to get the photos. Later in the report, Foster confirms to investigators that he initially drove away before obtaining the photos “changed his mind, turned around, and went back to the restaurant.”
The report said the Photographer had confirmed the photos and videos he transferred to Foster on Sept. 26 were the same found in the media’s reporting. Foster said he had downloaded the photos and video to a USB drive.
“Foster did not send the photos to the media and stressed he did not want to damage ECU’s reputation,” the report said. “Foster gave the USB drive to his friend, but declined to say who that person was.”
In an interview with The East Carolinian, Romary said he is good friends with both Matt Davenport and Foster whose name shows up multiple times in the Womble Bond Dickinson report.
After a forensic analysis was conducted, Womble Bond Dickinson said it was unable to determine the owner of the email@example.com account. The report said the account has since been shut down after attempts to email the account failed.
In an interview, Romary said he had “nothing to do with” the firstname.lastname@example.org account.
Romary said that many suspected him to have started this situation, but he said he wanted to be clear that he was not involved whatsoever. Romary offered to provide documentation proving he was in the UK without access to wifi when the mail packages were sent out by John Q Public.
Romary said he found out about the email address email@example.com by his clients, investigators and “pretty much everybody in the media.”
“The name of the account was not a secret. People had been saying they received stuff from an anonymous account from John Public. I was asked by investigators (Womble Bond Dickinson), ‘are you John Q Public?’ I was interviewed by the investigators. Why was I interviewed by the investigators? That’s what I want to know,” Romary said.
According to the report, Romary represented the regional divisions of the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), whom he filed, on behalf of, a petition with the city for the street camera footage on the night in question regarding Gerlach’s appearance downtown.
Romary was additionally working on a separate case on behalf of BOG member Tom Fetzer, who retained him shortly after Romary began investigating on behalf of the PBA and FOP, according to Romary.
“People can make up what they want about me and infer what they want about me. They can try to take texts and string them together without knowing what was in phone calls or emails. They can do as they wish. I have done what I did for the police. It was not part of any nefarious set up or collaboration,” Romary said.
When asked if anyone else on the BOG was involved in his hiring by Tom Fetzer, Romary said he could not answer.
“I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done, because what I did at the end of the day revealed the truth, and that’s all we’re looking for,” Romary said.