State News

Former chancellor, ports chairman testify to grand jury

Posted June 17, 2009

— Former North Carolina State University Chancellor James Oblinger and the chairman of the state Ports Authority appeared Wednesday before a federal grand jury investigating dealings former Gov. Mike Easley had with friends and contributors while in office.

Oblinger declined to comment as he left the federal courthouse in downtown Raleigh at about 12:30 p.m., about four hours after he entered.

Easley investigation graphic Grand jury continues Easley probe

"Dr. Oblinger, from the start through now, has cooperated with this investigation in every way," said his attorney, Press Millen. "He answered all the questions that were put to him this morning by the grand jury. Beyond that, we have no further statement at this time."

Carl Stewart, a former House speaker who now is chairman of the Ports Authority, also testified in the grand jury hearing.

"It went well. I'm pleased to be able to be here and help if I can," Stewart said upon leaving the federal courthouse.

Ports Authority spokeswoman Karen Fox said the grand jury had subpoenaed information about the state's sale of its stake in the Southport marina to Cary developers Tim Smith and Julian "Bubba" Rawl.

Wilmington developer Nick Garrett also was initially part of the marina sale. He had renovated the Easleys' home in Southport shortly before the deal.

An ethics complaint filed against the former governor in 2006 over the marina sale was eventually dismissed.

Oblinger and former N.C. State Provost Larry Nielsen were subpoenaed last month, with federal investigators requesting access to all documents related to the university's employment of Mary Easley, the former governor's wife.

Oblinger's attorney speaks outside courthouse Oblinger's attorney speaks outside courthouse

Oblinger resigned last week as the university released e-mails showing that he had played an extensive role in her hiring in 2005. He said he didn't recall his participation in the effort until reading the e-mails, but maintained the hiring involved no impropriety and no coercion.

Nielsen, who hired Mary Easley, and McQueen Campbell, a close friend of Mike Easley who was chairman of N.C. State's Board of Trustees, both resigned last month amid questions over their roles in Mary Easley's hiring. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Mary Easley served as executive-in-residence and senior lecturer at N.C. State, developed the Millennium Seminars speakers program and taught a graduate course in public administration and courses in the Administrative Officers Management Program, which provides leadership training to law enforcement officers.

Last year, she received an 88 percent raise, to $170,000 a year. N.C. State officials defended the raise at the time, saying 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.

A series of e-mails N.C. State turned over to the grand jury last week show Campbell discussed the potential of a university job for Mary Easley with the former governor several times in 2005 before the hiring was official.

N.C. State's Board of Trustees voted to terminate Mary Easley's contract last week. A letter to her never mentioned the controversy and maintained the move was linked to state budget cuts.

It's unclear when Nielsen might testify before the grand jury, which also is reviewing the former governor's travel records, a coastal land deal involving Campbell and Mike Easley and vehicles provided to the Easleys.

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  • superman Jun 18, 2009

    I hope that when they testified that they told the truth-- a lot of people have gone to prison for lying under oath and then the truth came out. Then they ended up in prison for lying and not what they did.

  • goobnav Jun 18, 2009

    Here is a callout. Mako your calling out the wrongs with the educational system. Here is what is wrong your cronies got in and destroyed it. Or they are chaging it to the model that they want, corrupt it so badly that the government has to take total control of the system and let issues like the Easleys happen all over again. You want change, here is the change, people are waking up and seeing through the wool being pulled over their eyes. This is nothing but a show trial and Sleazy and his cronies and all the other corrupt politicans are going to get what they want us believing that the govenrment will save them. I think we should make these people live with no income and be banned from ever working again unless it is in a field to feed themselves. My Alma Mater is smeared for the sake of political low lifes from down Hillsborough St. given offices by the people who paid for them not the electorate. Ordo Ab Charo.

  • Sidekick Jun 18, 2009

    So, there is a bunch of liberal politicians giving favors being tried by a bunch of liberal judges, being investigated by a bunch of liberal federal officials. Being reported by a liberal news media. Why waste our time and the taxpayers money?

  • Sidekick Jun 18, 2009

    Wonder why our state gov't is in such a shambles? When buddies are appointed to positions instead of qualified persons, it comes back to haunt us, the taxpayers. How much of all this development and remodeling money has come from state coffers. Maybe Bev should go after those thugs and get all that money back.

  • nufsaid Jun 17, 2009

    "Former North Carolina State University Chancellor James Oblinger and the chairman of the state Ports Authority appeared Wednesday before a federal grand jury investigating dealings former Gov. Mike Easley had with friends and contributors while in office."

    Could it be that Basnight may get his turn under the spotlight? If so, it is way past time.

  • gammasandi Jun 17, 2009

    confederateyankee, keep it up! The houses of government are beginning to smell from so much corruption!

  • avidreader Jun 17, 2009

    Let me first say I am sorry it was NCSU, but it could just as easily been any of the state schools - Mary probably didn't want to drive to Chapel Hill once a month to collect her pay. That being said, Oblinger said he didn't remember being in on any of the negotiations until he saw the emails. YEA RIGHT - you're that far up the Gov's rear and you don't remember getting his wife a job!!!

  • rlsmith5 Jun 17, 2009

    Sure would be interesting to see how each person named by Gov Easley to a state position was connected to him and what they each gave to get there political appointment made. maybe they should examine all the people he appointed while in office.

  • StanleyCup Jun 17, 2009

    This is just the beginning!!

  • this is my Screen Name Jun 17, 2009

    I keep seeing Mary's smug smile during her press conference when her lawyer - not the school representatives - was defending her. Who's smiling now?

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