Raleigh, N.C. — The lawyer for former first lady Mary Easley has notified North Carolina State University that she plans to challenge her recent firing.
The university's Board of Trustees terminated Easley's five-year contract June 8, ending her $170,000-a-year job as an executive-in-residence and senior lecturer.
Questions surrounding her hiring in 2005 and an 88 percent pay raise last year have caused a shake-up at the school, leading to several top university administrators, including the chancellor, resigning from their posts.
In a letter dated June 10, the chancellor of the university identified economic downturn and the elimination of the program where she worked as the reason for her termination.
Easley’s attorney, Marvin Schiller, wrote to the university Office of Legal Affairs Friday that “Ms. Easley is appealing her dismissal.”
Schiller wrote that a review of the grievance procedures on the university’s Web site left him with questions, and that he expected further discussion about Easley’s specific situation.
In dismissing Easley, interim Chancellor James Woodward made no mention of the controversy over her hiring and salary, writing only that the programs she was hired to administer would be "eliminated or severely reduced."
In response to Schiller's letter Monday, Woodward added, "As we reviewed our options for meeting the substantial budget reductions for this year, next year and the foreseeable future, it became clear to us that addressing such a severe loss of funding would require some elimination of programs.
"Programs that Mrs. Easley was hired to administer or participate in are among those that are being eliminated or reduced – specifically the Center for Public Safety Leadership and the Millennium Seminar Series.
"With this substantial loss of job responsibilities and on the advice of the N.C. State Board of Trustees, I terminated Mrs. Easley’s contract.
"Mrs. Easley may, of course, pursue whatever grievance process or legal action she now deems appropriate.”
The issue is a legal matter, and some attorneys have said it is easier to terminate a personnel contract on the grounds of budgetary restraints as opposed to cause.
Easley is not eligible for severance package.
Federal investigators have subpoenaed information about her job in connection with an investigation into the finances and influences of former Gov. Mike Easley.
Documents turned over to a federal grand jury include e-mails showing the former governor discussing a job at N.C. State for his wife.
N.C. State Chancellor James Oblinger, Provost Larry Nielsen and McQueen Campbell, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, resigned from leadership positions at the university amid questions over their roles in her hiring. All three have denied any wrongdoing.