Local Politics

Ex-NCSU official completes testimony in Easley probe

Posted July 17, 2009 3:08 p.m. EDT
Updated July 17, 2009 3:33 p.m. EDT

— Former North Carolina State University Provost Larry Nielsen spent another three hours Friday morning testifying to a federal grand jury investigating former Gov. Mike Easley's dealings while in office.

Nielsen also spent 2½ hours testifying Thursday, most likely answering questions about the university's hiring and promotion of Easley's wife, Mary Easley.

Nielsen declined to comment, but his attorney, Tommy Manning, said he answered every question put to him by the grand jury. Manning said the testimony lasted so long because of the large number of documents that needed to be explained.

Nielsen played a prominent role in hiring Mary Easley in 2005 and in her promotion last summer to a $170,000-a-year job as a senior lecturer and executive-in-residence.

He resigned two months ago amid questions over her position at N.C. State. Former Chancellor James Oblinger and McQueen Campbell, the former chairman of N.C. State's Board of Trustees, also resigned because of questions about their roles in her hiring.

All three have denied any wrongdoing, but a string of e-mails the university turned over to the grand jury showed Campbell communicated several times with the former governor about a potential N.C. State job for his wife and then communicated with Oblinger and Nielsen to make it happen.

Some e-mails from Oblinger's personal N.C. State account from the months leading up to Mary Easley's hiring were deleted several years ago, and forensic technicians said they cannot be recovered.

N.C. State terminated Mary Easley's five-year contract in June, citing state budget cuts to the programs she oversaw. She has appealed the move.

The grand jury also has looked at the former governor's travel, his purchase of a waterfront lot in Carteret County at a below-market price, vehicles that car dealerships provided to the Easley family and the sale of a Southport marina.