State News

UNC chief says Mary Easley's raise under review

Posted July 9, 2008 6:09 p.m. EDT
Updated July 9, 2008 11:03 p.m. EDT

— A nearly $80,000 pay raise given to the governor's wife as well as other large pay raises were not reviewed by the university governing board as required, the chairwoman of the state university system said Wednesday.

University officials decided at a meeting that the raises would have to be approved by the board, said Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

Mary Easley, the wife of Gov. Mike Easley, is an executive in residence and senior lecturer at N.C. State. The school last week raised her pay about 88 percent from $90,300 to $170,000.

When Mary Easley recently talked with WRAL’s David Crabtree, she made no apologies for the raise, chalking it up to her credentials.

"All of my experience as a lawyer in private practice, a prosecutor, as a person that has worked with and advised law enforcement for more than 30 years in legal issues," she said.

Gage said the decision was made during a meeting of UNC President Erskine Bowles, herself, North Carolina State University Chancellor James Oblinger and other officials.

Other state universities have followed the policy properly, Gage said. But N.C. State apparently misinterpreted the policy and didn't bring other large pay raises to the Board of Governors, she said.

"That policy has been around for a good while," Gage said, adding that Mary Easley "had nothing to do with it not coming to the board."

Gage wouldn't comment on the amount of pay the governor's wife received, but said there were "much more significant salaries than hers."

The university system policy requires that proposed pay increases of more than 15 percent or $10,000 be approved by a Board of Governors committee and the full board.

Mary Easley said in a statement that she had been told that the Board of Governors must approve her raise and others.

"I am happy to have my positions, duties and responsibilities reviewed as well," she said.

Last week, N.C. State officials defended the pay, saying Mary Easley was getting a new job with increased responsibility at the Center for Public Safety Leadership and Strategic Legal Partnership. She previously taught law at North Carolina Central University in Durham.

N.C. State Provost Larry Nielsen said Mary Easley's appointment had to be approved by the Board of Governors, along with similar positions and that the university had been interpreting its obligation differently under system rules.

Nielsen also said that over the past two years she has built the school's Millennium Seminar speaker series into a major program.

"In her new position, Mrs. Easley's responsibilities have been significantly expanded, warranting a new salary in the range of other management and law faculty at N.C. State and its peer institutions," he said.

Nielsen said her leadership of the public safety program would help develop "best practices in the administration and leadership of ... the work of police, firefighters, port officials, emergency medical personnel, homeland security official and others."