N.C. State fires Mary Easley as scandal erupts

Raleigh News & ObserverJune 8, 2009 

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State University's Board of Trustees has terminated the contract of Mary Easley, the wife of former Gov. Mike Easley hours after it became clear that the governor had played a key role in arranging for his wife's job.

The chancellor of N.C. State, James Oblinger, also resigned after e-mails emerged that showed he'd played a critical role in designing Mrs. Easley's job responsibilities as did a trustee, McQueen Campbell, who was also involved in the job's creation.

The trustees said that the duties of Easley's $170,000-a-year job no longer exist and that her departure from N.C. State would be in the best interest of the university. The trustees, along with UNC system president Erskine Bowles, met Monday afternoon.

Easley's job title was executive in residence, given when former NCSU Provost Larry Nielsen retooled her post and gave her an 88 percent raise last summer.

The job was actually four part-time roles cobbled together. Easley was to create and direct a public safety center; run a speakers series, which she started in 2005; coordinate law-related academic programming; and teach half a class each semester.

Documents released today show that the job was orchestrated at the highest levels of state government, and included the direct involvement of then-Gov. Easley.

E-mail messages show the creation of the job was orchestrated in April and May of 2005 by the governor and that those involved in deciding the job's responsibilities included N.C. State chancellor Oblinger; trustee Campbell; a senior adviser to Easley who now heads the Golden Leaf Foundation, Dan Gerlach; and an NCSU lobbyist at the time, Andy Willis.

At the time, the university justified hiring Mary Easley without a job search by saying that she was "unique" for the speakers job and that her connections, many of them developed while her husband, Mike Easley, was the state's attorney general and two-term governor, would help lure top names to campus.

She had previously been a lawyer and then taught law courses at N.C. Central University in Durham. Mike Easley, a Democrat, was governor from 2001 until January.

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