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N.C. State revokes payout to former provost

Posted June 16, 2009

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— North Carolina State University officials on Tuesday revoked a lucrative payout to former Provost Larry Nielsen, saying it wasn't approved by university trustees.

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

Welcoming ceremony for interim N.C. State Chancellor Jim Woodward New chancellor revives optimism at NCSU

Former Chancellor James Oblinger offered Nielsen, who plans to return to a faculty position in the university's College of Natural resources, a gradual reduction in administrative salary over the next three years instead of the usual six-month transition.

The deal would have given Nielsen an extra $142,000.

Oblinger resigned a week ago over questions about his role in Easley's hiring and Nielsen's payout, which was never presented to N.C. State's Board of Trustees.

Interim Chancellor Jim Woodward informed Nielsen Tuesday that he had voided the deal Oblinger offered and plans to drop Nielsen's salary to $156,715 in November.

When Nielsen was promoted to provost in 2005, he and Oblinger agreed he would cut his salary to that of a senior faculty member within six months if he left the administrative position within five years.

"Chancellor Oblinger did not have the authority to fundamentally alter the contents of the employment agreement ... without first getting approval of the Board of Trustees," Woodward wrote in a letter.

Nielsen hired Easley in 2005 to serve as executive-in-residence and senior lecturer at N.C. State, develop the Millennium Seminars speakers program and teach a graduate course in public administration and courses in the Administrative Officers Management Program, which provides leadership training to law enforcement officers.

He also oversaw her 88 percent raise last year, an increase N.C. State officials defended at the time. Officials said she had taken on additional duties, such as directing pre-law services at the university and serving as a liaison to area law firms and law schools at other universities as she developed a dual degree program.

Easley issue hangs over university

Questions about her hiring and promotion have dogged the university for months.

The day after Nielsen resigned, McQueen Campbell, a close friend of the Easleys who served as chairman of N.C. State's Board of Trustees, also stepped down amid questions over his role in Easley's hiring.

Hours after Oblinger resigned last week, the Board of Trustees terminated Easley's contract. The university's official position is that her position was eliminated because of state budget cuts.

Oblinger will appear Wednesday before a federal grand jury investigating the dealings former Gov. Mike Easley had with friends and contributors while in office, said Oblinger's attorney, Press Millen.

"He's been asked to be there (Wednesday). He will be there. He is cooperating in every way. He will go there and answer any questions they have," Millen said.

The grand jury last month subpoenaed Oblinger and Nielsen and asked that the university turn over all records related to the employment of Mary Easley.

It's unclear when Nielsen will testify before the grand jury, which also is examining Mike Easley's travel records, vehicles provided to the former governor and his family and a coastal land deal.

Interim chancellor embraces openness

Woodward said Tuesday that he is fully aware he has inherited a university in crisis. He was formally introduced to the campus Tuesday in a ceremony at Talley Student Center.

N.C. State Interim Chancellor Jim Woodward Web only: Woodward faces NCSU problems head-on

"We will get past this bump – it is more than a bump, but (it's) temporary," said Woodward, formerly chancellor of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

"My job is to ensure that every day we do something that helps re-establish the trust that the people of North Carolina have long had in this institution," he said.

Woodward said that he plans to operate the university in a way that will stand up to any possible scrutiny.

"Words such as 'transparency' and 'openness' are more than words," he said.

Students said Woodward's appointment signals a new day for N.C. State.

"I think students are ready to move forward from the controversy, and I think this event marks an opportunity for us to do that," Student Body President Jim Ceresnak said.

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  • nufsaid Jun 17, 2009

    ""My job is to ensure that every day we do something that helps re-establish the trust that the people of North Carolina have long had in this institution," he said.

    Then, by all means, DO YOUR JOB! The way to accomplish this is to at least fire Oblinger since he lied, covered up, and over stepped his authority. The people of NC do not approve of him committing these offenses and still pull down a 6 figure income! Same goes for Nielson & possibly Campbell, if they are getting similar deals. Anything less will only serve to perpetuate the fraud & prove you are as bad as your predecessor. If anything, they should all have to pay NCSU to compensate for the negative impact left in their wake!
    psm5000"

    Don't forget Queen Mary.

  • davidbh61255 Jun 17, 2009

    Its amazing how all these people already have lawyers to speak for them and yet they are state employees!

  • Seeminglyopposed Jun 17, 2009

    How can someone resign a position as such for doing something so wrong, and then go into another position at the same institution as if nothing has happened, without consequence? Anyone else would loose their job and that would be that,if not the possibility of some legal action for the wrong doing. What is wrong with this picture? This is unreal. It is like...okay..I will quit here and go there, just give me my money..no problem and the board say...okay...do that! Must be nice..

  • psm5000 Jun 17, 2009

    "My job is to ensure that every day we do something that helps re-establish the trust that the people of North Carolina have long had in this institution," he said.

    Then, by all means, DO YOUR JOB! The way to accomplish this is to at least fire Oblinger since he lied, covered up, and over stepped his authority. The people of NC do not approve of him committing these offenses and still pull down a 6 figure income! Same goes for Nielson & possibly Campbell, if they are getting similar deals. Anything less will only serve to perpetuate the fraud & prove you are as bad as your predecessor. If anything, they should all have to pay NCSU to compensate for the negative impact left in their wake!

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jun 17, 2009

    If they would get rid of all of these high paid administrators who broke the law with Mary Easley they wouldn't have to raise tuition. In reality they could most likely lower the tuition.

  • gordonbabe Jun 17, 2009

    Wow.. You ARE the weakest link! Buh-bye!

  • dang_skippy Jun 17, 2009

    The "Trustees" are NOT trusted, the Ex-Chancellor and Ex-Provost need to be let go, do away with their positions and give NCSU the money to operate. Obviously we won't be needing those 2 ex-professors as they were not teaching while in their admin roles, as such there is no need for them to go back to teaching.

  • WHEEL Jun 17, 2009

    What do you want to bet that Neilsen told Oblinger to sweeten the deal or he would spill the beans on the Easley mess. Oblinger did it the day before Neilsen resigned and still got caught. They should both retire and pledge never to come on the NCSU campus again.

  • MakoII Jun 17, 2009

    At first I'm thinking "I like these Trustees" but them I'm thinking "Why did they allow all this to happen" in the first place!

    The Trustees are only covering their back ends. The Trustees should be ousted too and let a new set come in and clean house.

    I don't "Trust" the Trustees.

    And I'm STILL not going to put my child in THAT college. I still don't have assurances as an Alumni that the root of this matter has been determined and expunged so it never CAN happen again.

  • jgriffith3792 Jun 17, 2009

    Excellent move! The same should be done for Oblinger and Easley. Heck, they shouldn't get another cent from the NCSU.

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