Dr. James Oblinger, who led NC State for four years as its 13th chancellor, resigned June 8, the day the university released key documents related to the hiring of Mary Easley. E-mail messages released to a federal grand jury that morning show that McQueen Campbell, then a member of the Board of Trustees, brokered a job at the university for Easley in 2005, working with an adviser to Gov. Mike Easley and officials at NC State to help the First Lady secure an $80,000-a-year position as an executive-in-residence and senior lecturer.
Oblinger testified before the grand jury in Raleigh yesterday. The proceedings are closed to the public.
Oblinger previously said he was not involved in the decision to hire Easley, but the records show that he and Campbell traded a half-dozen e-mail messages on the topic in April 2005. The next month, Oblinger referred the matter to then-Interim Provost Larry Nielsen, who hired Easley to create and direct the Millennium Seminars series and teach law-related classes.
Nielsen has said he alone made the decision to hire Easley and that no improper influence was exerted on her behalf. He resigned as provost effective May 22, citing the pressure of intense media scrutiny. Campbell resigned from the Board of Trustees on May 15.
Dr. Jim Woodward, NC State’s new chancellor on an interim basis, terminated Easley’s contract two days after taking charge, citing the university’s need to reduce expenditures. He said she would receive no severance pay. Woodward also declared invalid an agreement that Oblinger had approved for Nielsen in May, reducing his pay incrementally over a three-year period. Woodward said Oblinger did not have the necessary approval of the Board of Trustees to modify Nielsen’s original 2005 agreement, which allows him to receive his provost-level salary for six months before returning to a faculty position.