State News

N.C. State undertakes extensive review of contracts

Posted July 12, 2008 11:10 a.m. EDT

— Two high-ranking North Carolina State University officials have issued statements explaining why it was necessary to order a review of contracts granting large pay raises during the past six years.

The issue came to light after the university announced that Mary Easley, the wife of Gov. Mike Easley, would get a pay raise of nearly $80,000, or 88 percent, for moving from part- to full-time status.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors ruled that N.C. State's process of approving salary increases greater than 15 percent and $10,000 for faculty and staff did not meet the statewide university system's policy.

"We believed we were using the right approach in the way we were handling fixed-term contracts," N.S. State Chancellor James Oblinger said in a statement on the university's Web site.

"As an institution that prides itself on doing the right things in the right way, we are embarrassed by this difference of interpretation and will take immediate steps to ensure that our contract approval processes are consistent with Board guidelines," Oblinger's statement continued.

N.C. State Provost Larry Nielsen said the university has "historically ... interpreted the Board of Governors' policy to mean that salary increases associated with fixed-term appointments such as the one offered to Mary Easley" do not need the board's approval.

University officials will review all fixed-term contracts signed between 2002 and 2008 to determine which need to be turned over to the Board of Governors by its September meeting. Oblinger could not specify precisely how many contracts might be affected.

"It will take a fair amount of labor-intensive analysis, including reviewing each contract individually to determine the nature of the salary increase," Oblinger said.

A task force will also take a look at the university's overall contract process, including how and when contracts should be issued and how they are approved.

Nielsen stressed Mary Easley's contributions to the university.

"She has an outstanding academic and professional background, including significant experience as a prosecutor, legal scholar and lecturer," Nielsen said in a statement on N.C. State's Web site.

"Her work as First Lady and the relationships she has built among the state's and nation's thought leaders bring significant insights and experience to her job and into her classrooms."

In her new position, Mary Easley will create a public-safety leadership center, lead law-education programs and teach two courses.

For three years, she has been an executive-in-residence and senior lecturer, managing the Millennium Speakers Program and teaching graduate-level law classes.

Previously, Mary Easley worked as a prosecutor and taught law at North Carolina Central University.