It’s difficult to tell truth from fiction as the story of the creation of former North Carolina first lady Mary Easley’s position at N.C. State University unravels.
It now appears, however, that her husband, former Gov. Mike Easley, played a role in securing his wife’s lucrative job. Yesterday, however, her 3-year $850,000 contract came to an abrupt end — but only after three other university officials resigned.
What’s really confusing is the he-said, he-can’t-remember details that are sifting their way through news story after news story.
At first, N.C. State’s provost, Larry Nielsen (one of the three who resigned) shouldered most of the blame since he couldn’t remember who he might have discussed Mrs. Easley’s job with. Then, he admitted he discussed the creation of her position as “executive in residence” with the school’s chancellor, James Oblinger. (He, too, has resigned.)
Of course, Oblinger said he couldn’t remember any of the details.
Now, it turns out, the former governor’s office started the whole thing when one of Mr. Easley’s staff suggested Mrs. Easley to one of the school’s trustees, McQueen Campbell, who incidentally also acted as a personal pilot for the Easleys and name dropping braggart during the first family’s reign.
A month after Campbell got involved, Mrs. Easley was hired for $90,000 per year. Months later, her pay was boosted by 88 percent to $170,000.
At first Campbell said he didn’t say anything about hiring the then first lady, though he later remembered this minor detail: He passed her information along to Oblinger … but Nielson created the position.
If you just want to skip to the end: Mrs. Easley, Oblinger, Nielson and Campbell no longer work for the university and the feds are investigating. That means there’s likely more scandalous drama on the way.