At some point quite early in the going, the unpleasant reality must have dawned on Jim Oblinger: He had gotten himself into a situation that could not withstand the light of day.
If the full circumstances that surrounded N.C. State University's 2005 hiring of then-first lady Mary Easley became publicly known, there would be no hiding the fact that Oblinger, as the university chancellor, had allowed himself to be enlisted in a scheme that fell somewhere on the spectrum between unseemly and corrupt. He thus had betrayed his duty to defend the university against politically powerful, self-serving meddlers.
From then, things only grew worse. Sins of omission and commission were compounded. Yesterday, with Oblinger's resignation, came the downfall that had been set in motion four years ago. And to cap it off came the university's decision that Mary Easley, too, had to leave.
All it took for the scandal to mushroom was for facts to emerge – facts about the string-pulling, the special deals and the failures of candor that accompanied the Easley hiring and its embarrassing aftermath. Those facts have been laid out in recent days by The N&O, which yesterday reported communications showing that former Gov. Mike Easley had been personally involved in arranging for NCSU to offer his wife a job.
No surprise there to the cynics, perhaps, but it nevertheless amounts to a brazen abuse of his clout as governor. A governor has plenty of patronage appointments at his disposal and awards them with few questions asked. But he has no right to award a nice job to his wife – or to lean on university administrators to take care of her.
As it happens, Mary Easley's original position morphed into one paying $170,000 a year for work that, as an N&O story yesterday illustrated, hardly seemed to justify such generosity. Her duties as an executive in residence included lining up notables for a university speakers series and sharing the teaching load for one course per semester (for which her rate of compensation was about five times that of her colleague).