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N.C. State board chairman resigns

The chairman of N.C. State's Board of Trustees resigned Friday amid questions of his role in the university's hiring of former Gov. Mike Easley's wife.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The chairman of N.C. State's Board of Trustees resigned Friday amid questions of his role in the university's hiring of former Gov. Mike Easley's wife.

McQueen Campbell denied playing a part in Mary Easley obtaining a high-paying job at N.C. State four years ago, but he said his departure was in the best interests of the university.

"I do not want my continued service to distract in any way from the great work of the university," Campbell wrote in his letter of resignation.

Gov. Beverly Perdue accepted the resignation, saying she thought Campbell's departure was "in the best interest of N.C. State University."

Campbell is the second high-ranking N.C. State official to resign in two days over questions about Mary Easley's job. Provost Larry Nielsen, who hired her, stepped down Thursday.

Mary Easley began working at N.C. State as a part-time lecturer in 2002. Since 2005, she has served as an executive-in-residence and senior lecturer, developing a 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.

Last year, she received an 88 percent pay increase, to $170,000 a year. Nielsen and other 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.

Chancellor James Oblinger said Thursday that he couldn't recall how Mary Easley's name came up when officials were searching for someone to head the Millennium Seminars program, but noted she brought the requisite network of high-powered contacts.

No political pressure was exerted to hire her, however, Oblinger said.

"I am not resigning because I have acted inappropriately," Campbell said in his resignation letter. "Both the chancellor and the provost have communicated publicly and independently that the hiring process of Mary Easley was free from any improper influence. At all times, I have acted in a manner that reflects the university's high standards of integrity while doing so to the very best of my ability."

UNC President Erskine Bowles said Campbell told him this week that he had mentioned to Oblinger that Mary Easley wanted to change jobs, The News & Observer reported.

Bowles said Campbell called him this week and "went through a whole mea culpa," the newspaper reported.

"He said, 'I did tell Jim Oblinger in passing that Mary Easley was going to change jobs, and he may not even remember that.' And I said, 'What?' That was about the end of the conversation. I was surprised."

Bowles told the newspaper he suggested that Campbell resign to protect N.C. State's reputation. Campbell had six weeks remaining in his term.

"I'm very disappointed with this whole matter," Bowles said, adding that he doesn't believe anything "nefarious" occurred.

Mike Easley appointed Campbell twice to the N.C. State board, and federal and state officials are looking into plane trips Campbell provided to the governor.

Bowles said Mary Easley has four years remaining on her contract, but he told the newspaper her duties would "all be reviewed in the appropriate manner especially as we look at where we're going to place our budget going forward."

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