Local Politics

Easley consultant clarifies NCSU situation

Posted June 10, 2009 3:55 p.m. EDT
Updated June 10, 2009 8:11 p.m. EDT

— A public relations consultant working with former Gov. Mike Easley issued a statement Wednesday to "set the record straight" on Easley's involvement with his wife landing a job at North Carolina State University in 2005.

The university on Monday turned over records to a federal grand jury of Mary Easley's employment, including e-mails that showed the former governor discussed a job at N.C. State with a close friend whom he had appointed to the Board of Trustees.

Dan Gerlach, a top Easley aide, also told WRAL News that the governor has asked him to make initial inquiries to N.C. State officials to determine if a job was available for Mary Easley. Gerlach taught some courses at the university and used his personal e-mail to communication with the head of the political science department.

"The facts are simple: N.C. State approached Mary Easley in 2005 to make a lateral move from (the North Carolina Central University) School of Law, where she was teaching law, to develop new programs and teach at N.C. State at virtually the same salary," Ace Smith of SCN Strategies said in a statement.

She has served as an executive-in-residence and senior lecturer at N.C. State since 2005, developing the Millennium Seminars speakers program and teaching a graduate course in public administration and courses in the Administrative Officers Management Program, which provides leadership training to law enforcement officers.

The e-mails released Monday were related to "this 2005 lateral move," and not to the promotion and hefty raise Mary Easley received last year, Smith said.

She received an 88 percent pay increase, to $170,000 a year, when she signed a new five-year contract. N.C. State officials defended the move, 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.

University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles "actively reviewed, modified and approved the contract and expressed ‘delight’ that Mary Easley’s ‘expanded position … will bring additional depth to an already strong faculty and leadership team,’” Smith said.

Bowles on Monday backed the Board of Trustees' decision to terminate Mary Easley's contract after she refused to step down amid a growing controversy over her hiring and promotion.

N.C. State Provost Larry Nielsen and McQueen Campbell, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, resigned last month amid questions over their roles in her hiring. Campbell was the trustee who communicated with Mike Easley four years ago in the e-mails.

N.C. State Chancellor James Oblinger submitted his resignation Monday after officials questioned the lucrative payout he negotiated with Nielsen as he transitioned from provost into a faculty position.

Mary Easley issued a statement to the N.C. State community Wednesday, calling her time there a privilege and urging the university to "focus on the best welfare of the students."