RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State University Chancellor James L. Oblinger resigned Monday after days of shifting explanations about a deal he cut for former provost Larry Nielsen when Nielsen stepped down last month.
Both men are at the heart of a controversy about how former state first lady Mary Easley gained a job at the university in 2005, then an 88-percent pay hike last year to a $170,000 salary. In his resignation letter Oblinger said the university would be releasing e-mails that showed he was involved in her hiring, something he had denied.
The university had provided those e-mails to a federal grand jury investigating the Easleys after getting subpoenas.
"I understand that the University will be making public today the documents that it is providing to the grand jury in connection with the federal investigation," Oblinger wrote. "A handful of those documents - all emails - indicate that I was made aware of Mrs. Easley's potential availability as a faculty member by [NCSU board of trustees chairman] McQueen Campbell in April 2005. I did not recall those communications until reviewing the emails last week. The emails themselves indicate that I referred the issue to the appropriate university officials and they indicate no impropriety in the process in which Mrs. Easley was hired to come to NC State from her previous position at North Carolina Central University at an increase in pay of $1,072.10."
Oblinger, like Nielsen, said the intense scrutiny was the reason he was quitting.
"I am doing so because that is what leaders do when the institutions they lead come under distracting and undue public scrutiny," he wrote in a resignation letter. "This is particularly true for leaders of public institutions like NC State."
Gov. Beverly Perdue released a statement today, calling Oblinger's resignation "appropriate."
"Today's announcements are the appropriate steps to enable the University to keep its eye on the prize -- education, collaboration, discovery and leadership," Perdue said in the statement. "Recent events have become a distraction from the core mission of NC State faculty, staff, and students."