The resurfaced criminal history of the head of a mountain non-profit is sparking a historic first.
Bill Murdock has returned his honorary degree from the University of North Carolina at Asheville after, he says, a disgruntled former employee brought up his conviction of a child sex charge from 30 years ago.
Sarah Broberg, a spokeswoman for the university, says it’s the first time in the honor’s 32-year history this has happened.
She says the Board of Trustees called an emergency meeting March 8 to accept its return and rescind the award.
Broberg says a representative from the institution picked up the degree on Friday, March 8.
According to resurfaced court documents, Murdock, the CEO of Eblen Charities, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor liberties with a 15-year-old girl in 1988.
Some of the records obtained by News 13, are so old, they don’t exist as part of the county record, because of North Carolina law which requires these types of records to be destroyed after 5 years.
They state Murdock took immoral, improper and indecent liberties with a 15-year-old girl for the purpose of arousing and gratifying sexual desire.
They go on to state he committed a lewd and lascivious act with her.
According to records with Buncombe County Schools, Murdock was a math teacher at Erwin High School at the time he was charged.
Based on those records, he resigned the day before he pleaded guilty.
Originally charged with a felony, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.
Murdock wouldn’t talk about the case with News 13, but he told the Asheville Citizen-Times he never had a sexual relationship with the girl and took the plea after his attorney advised him to do so.
He was sentenced to five years of unsupervised probation and counseling.
In the months leading up to the charge, his wife referred him to see a counselor which continued with his sentence.
His therapist determined that “Mr. Murdock does not fit the personality profile of a sexual abuser.”
She also legally cleared him from counseling in November of 1988, but said he chose to still go.
The board of Eblen Charities released the following statement:
The Board of Directors of Eblen Charities has long been aware of an allegation in Bill Murdock’s past that involved alleged inappropriate conduct with a minor. Bill has always been forthright and open about this matter that occurred over thirty years ago.
In the past, the Board conducted its own investigation into the matter and determined that no further action was necessary. In addition, we have policies in place to reduce the risk of any improper conduct involving our employees and the clients we serve.
Eblen Charities is a non-profit organization whose outreach extends throughout the counties of western North Carolina to help thousands of families each year with medical and emergency assistance.
We believe in helping people and giving people a second chance. That includes both our clients and our employees. Almost 70 million Americans have a criminal record. We believe each client and each employee should be given a fair chance to work for our organization and participate in our programs, provided that such participation is safe and appropriate. Based on our investigation of the matter involving Bill Murdock, we believe that Bill has proven himself worthy of continued employment as our executive director. He has done good work here and has improved the lives of the people of western North Carolina. We continue to stand in support of Bill Murdock.