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Ex-provost's pay package larger than disclosed

Posted June 7, 2009
Updated June 8, 2009

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— North Carolina State University trustees are holding emergency meetings to examine documents that show that a severance package for a former provost is much larger than disclosed.

Nielsen's pay deal is more than first reported Nielsen's pay deal is more than first reported

The documents also show that Larry Nielsen requested a lawyer to handle any civil or criminal action taken against him for actions done as an N.C. State employee. Chancellor James Oblinger passed that request onto the Attorney General's Office.

Nielsen stepped down as provost in mid-May, citing public pressure over how he handled the hiring of then-first lady Mary Easley in 2005 and her promotion and raise in 2008. He and Oblinger have denied any wrongdoing.

On Friday, the new trustees chairman Bob Jordan asked the board to review what he had been told was a deal that would allow Nielsen to draw his $298,700 salary as provost for another six months. During that period, Nielsen is supposed to teach and conduct research for in the College of Natural Resources.

However, documents released Sunday by the university show that Chancellor James Oblinger, who also denies any wrongdoing by Nielsen, negotiated a better pay deal for the former provost. The documents show that pay offered to Nielsen by Oblinger exceeds what was previously disclosed and what Oblinger offered when he hired Nielsen in 2005.

When asked about the discrepancy, university spokesman Keith Nichols took the blame, but wouldn't disclose who gave him the information, saying it was a personnel matter.

A letter signed by the chancellor and dated the day before Nielsen resigned stipulates that his salary will be reduced over a three-year period. He won't draw the salary of a senior professor until July 1, 2012.

After drawing his full pay as provost through the rest of 2009, Nielsen will be paid $251,372 from Jan. 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011. The next fiscal year, his salary will drop to $204, 043. The following year, Nielsen will draw a salary of $156,715 – that of a senior professor.

The deal could be violation of a university policy that limits payouts to one year. It also goes beyond what Oblinger offered Nielsen in a June 22, 2005, letter hiring him as provost:

"Should you chose, or be asked, to relinquish your administrative duties ... for the first six months, you would retain your administrative salary to prepare for teaching, research and or/extension responsibilities to be negotiated with the Dean of the College of Natural Resources. Should you have served as provost for five years, this period of time would be one year."

The typed 2005 letter lists Nielsen's salary offer as $255,000. The number is scratched out and replaced by the handwritten number of $298,700.

The hiring letter says that Oblinger would forward it to the Board of Trustees for approval. The letter about his severance package was copied to Nielsen's human-resources file and to Robert Brown, dean of the College of Natural Resources, but it was not provided for review or approved by the trustees.

Jordan called emergency meetings to review the pay package on Sunday night and Monday afternoon.

Jordan became chairman of the trustees board after the former head, McQueen Campbell, resigned after his role in Mary Easley's employment was also questioned. Campbell, who was twice appointed as a trustee by then-Gov. Mike Easley, has likewise denied wrongdoing.

Despite calls for her resignation, Mary Easley has refused to step down from her $170,000-a-year job.

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed Mary Easley's personnel records and any records the State Auditor's Office might have from any investigation into her hiring or the N.C. State provost's office. The FBI is also investigating reports from the News & Observer that Campbell flew Mike Easley on his private plane but never disclosed the flights in campaign finance reports.


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  • Even Jun 8, 2009

    Erskin Bowles was appointed by Easley and a part of this whole embarassing mess. He needs to go to clean up this mess! He has always been a part of NC politics but we don't need that kind of politics anymore for either party. Let's get a clean start.

  • SweetB Jun 8, 2009


  • Professor Jun 8, 2009

    If we could clean this mess we could get a tax rebate instead of a tax increase.

    Thanks for the comment. Thats wasted money that we the people could be using.

  • Mohawkk Jun 8, 2009

    If we could clean this mess we could get a tax rebate instead of a tax increase.

  • Tax Man Jun 8, 2009

    This is NOT a personnel matter, this is a CRIMINAL matter and these folks all need to spend a lot of time with Jim Black in prison. This is absurd and these folks just keep cheating the taxpayers. I am sure hoping the feds come in and take this group down. Maybe even shut down NCSU until they can weed out all the criminals who are "trustees" of our tax money but keep giving it away to their friends. Lock them all up for a long, long time. Make sure Mike and Mary go with them.

  • MakoII Jun 8, 2009


    You know Socialism? Here is Capitalism:

    Adam Smith, the God of Modern Economics and Capitalism can speak for himself (quotes):

    "The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities."

    "What improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconvenience to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. "

    "The price of monopoly is upon every occasion the highest which can be got."

    "To expect, indeed, that the freedom of trade should ever be entirely restored in Great Britain, is as absurd as to expect that an Oceana or Utopia should ever be established in it."

    In SUMMARY: Capitalism requires a Redistribution of Wealth Tax. It shouldn't have Monopolies. Should Keep the Masses Happy. It can't possibly in practice ever be entirely "free trade".

  • affirmativediversity Jun 8, 2009


    Have you ever lived in a socialist country? I suspect not because the level of your naivete is astounding.

  • affirmativediversity Jun 8, 2009

    Animal Lover:

    When you said, "Erskine Bowles has very little to do with State politics"...are we talking about the same ERSKINE BOWLES?

    You know, the ERSKINE BOWLES who has run on the DEMOCRATIC ticket for US SENATE at least twice? What you think the dirty DEMOCRATIC PARTY just picked his name out of a hat because they wanted someone they didn't know?

    PLEASE, we are just not that stupid!

  • MakoII Jun 8, 2009


    Capitalism has as it's tenet a "Redistribution of Wealth" as laid-out by the Father of Modern Economics and Capitalism: Adam Smith who wrote "The Wealth of Nations".

    You should google this book and how it refers to redistribution, and while you are at it, "Socialist" and "Socialism" so that you might know a little bit about the terms you are using inappropriately.

    Despite the obvious corruption, Alumni of NCSU know how to apply these political terms correctly.

  • Bob3425 Jun 8, 2009

    "paid $251,372 from Jan. 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011. The next fiscal year, his salary will drop to $204, 043. The following year, Nielsen will draw a salary of $156,715 – that of a senior professor."
    The state need to fund this school WHY? this guy does nothing.