Reverberations will continue to be felt in Asheville and Buncombe County's educational and non-profit institutions following the renewed attention given to retiring Eblen Charities CEO Bill Murdock's 1988 guilty plea to a misdemeanor sex crime with a minor. UNC Asheville and A-B Tech were the first to be in the spotlight, but the Buncombe County and Asheville City school systems continue to face questions about Murdock, who was hired by the city school system after his guilty plea, and was appointed to the A-B Tech Board of Trustees in 2016 at the recommendation of the county school system.
Asheville Citizen-Times reporter Jennifer Bowman has had a busy week covering the fallout of the new Murdock revelations. On Monday, the A-B Tech Board of Trustees held its first meeting since Murdock announced his resignation from the board on March 22nd. That meeting featured heated discussion on who knew how much and when about Murdock's criminal past. Then on Thursday and Friday, the Citizen-Times published a two-part story with interviews from the victim of Murdock's abuse Shelley Love Baldwin. In it, she described how she felt let down by both school systems as well as the legal system. Murdock was initially charged with a felony count, but that was later reduced to a misdemeanor charge which authorities say does not exist in North Carolina criminal code. Murodck co-founded Eblen Charities following his guilty plea, and announced his retirement as CEO when the new revelations from Baldwin were first reported by CNN.
Bowman was the first to report on the UNC Asheville Board of Trustees holding an emergency meeting in secret on March 8th, the first inkling that larger revelations about Murdock's past were about to go public. That meeting was eventually found to be about the honorary degree the school had given Murdock in 2018. He has since returned that degree to the school. Bowman sat down with BPR's Matt Bush to discuss the latest in the story.
Disclosure: A-B Tech and UNC Asheville are both business sponsors of Blue Ridge Public Radio. Dr. Dennis King, the president of A-B Tech, is also a member of the Western North Carolina Public Radio Inc. Board of Directors, which oversees Blue Ridge Public Radio.