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Bowles seeks to rein in payouts to campus officials

A lucrative payout to former N.C. State Provost Larry Nielsen prompted a review of pay packages given to administrators at UNC system campuses who return to faculty positions.

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Following the disclosure of a lucrative payout to a former North Carolina State University provost, University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles wants more controls placed on such pay deals.

Larry Nielsen stepped down as N.C. State provost in May amid questions over his role in the hiring and promotion of Mary Easley, the wife of former Gov. Mike Easley.

Mary Easley's hiring by the university is part of a federal grand jury investigation into the dealings the former governor had with friends and contributors while in office.

Nielsen plans to take a faculty position at N.C. State, and former Chancellor James Oblinger, who also resigned over the Mary Easley controversy, approved a pay package for Nielsen that would have allowed him to continue collecting his provost's salary for six months. The pay package also would have reduced Nielsen's salary to that of a professor over a three-year period, which would violate a university policy limiting payouts to one year.

The N.C. State Board of Trustees voided the payout in June, saying they never approved the deal.

Bowles said in a memo to the Board of Governors that policies allowing administrators who retire or return to teaching to continue collecting their previous salaries, known as "retreat rights," are too generous and need more accountability and definition.

He suggested shortening the amount of time administrators are eligible for paid leave to six months, unless a longer period has been approved by the UNC Board of Governors. He also said all payout packages should be approved by the board of trustees at the campus where an administrator works and, in some cases, by the Board of Governors as well.

Under Bowles' proposal, which the Board of Governors is expected to review Thursday, current Chancellors and senior administrators would be grandfathered in so existing policies would continue to apply to them.


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