Politics & Government

NCSU leaders subpoenaed over former first lady's job

Federal prosecutors Tuesday ordered the chancellor and provost at N.C. State University to appear before a grand jury this week, making it clear that investigators have opened a wide-ranging criminal probe of dealings surrounding former Gov. Mike Easley.

The FBI served subpoenas to Chancellor James Oblinger Tuesday afternoon as he left the main administration building, Holladay Hall, to appear at an event across campus.

"This university will do everything to cooperate fully," Oblinger said.

Investigators want to talk with Oblinger and Provost Larry Nielsen about the hiring, promotion and salary of former first lady Mary Easley, according to the court documents.

Grand juries investigate matters and weigh possible criminal charges; their proceedings are secret. Subpoenas become public records when served to state agencies or officials.

Legal experts said that a demand for testimony and documents does not indicate wrongdoing. The former governor, a Democrat who left office in January, said in a statement last week that he is "comfortable" with any review of his years in office. Mary Easley has refused numerous attempts to speak with her.

Mary Easley secured a job at N.C. State in 2005, and last summer got expanded duties and an 88 percent raise, bringing her salary to $170,000.

Her hiring took place after former board chairman McQueen Campbell suggested it to the chancellor, UNC system President Erskine Bowles said, citing a conversation he had last week with Campbell. Oblinger said he is embarrassed he doesn't remember it, but acknowledges his practice would have been to pass such a suggestion to the provost, who is the university's chief academic officer.

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