By The Raleigh Telegram
RALEIGH – A secret agreement that was uncovered by the News & Observer newspaper at the end of last year has revealed that former North Carolina first lady Mary Easley will have her annual state funded retirement pay boosted from $37,171 to $80,597 a year for the rest of her life, despite being fired from NC State University.
Amid allegations of political backdoor dealings by her husband Mike Easley who was governor at the time, Easley was fired by the Board of Governors from her teaching job at NC State in 2009. Mary Easley had been given the five year $170,000 a year job at NCSU in 2008.
Previously, Mary Easley had been working at NCSU helping to land speakers at the school and as a law professor at North Carolina Central University. Both jobs had paid around half the amount of the new position that was created at NCSU just for Mrs. Easley in 2008.
Allegations claimed that Mary Easley was offered the high-paying job due to behind the scenes influence by her husband Mike Easley, who was serving as Governor of North Carolina at the time. Mike Easley had strong ties to one of the NCSU Board of Trustees McQueen Campbell, who had supported Easley’s campaign.
A scandal erupted and resulted in then-NCSU Chancellor James Oblinger, McQueen Campbell, and Provost Larry Nielson resigning from office. Mary Easley was fired by the university after the public relations fiasco in which many said that her job was an unnecessary and overpaid position.
Governor Mike Easley was later investigated by the federal government after he left office and was indicted for campaign fund irregularities. He later temporarily surrendered his law license and plead guilty to a single felony count, but did not go to jail. One of Easley’s aides did spend active time in prison after also pleading guilty.
The whole series of scandals made the Easleys seem guilty in the minds of many voters in North Carolina of trying to take advantage of their position for personal profit.
Despite the actions having taken place almost five years ago, the Easleys have made news again for their actions that occurred when Mike Easley was governor.
Just last year, North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson signed a deal in August to boost Mary Easley’s retirement pay from $37,171 to $80,597 a year for the rest of her life.
Mary Easley had filed a lawsuit saying she was improperly dismissed from her job at NCSU and that her retirement pay should be calculated based on working for the full five years of her contract with the university, not on the one year she worked before she was fired.
Rather than fight Mary Easley in a potentially costly case in court that could also be embarassing for the school, NCSU relented and decided to put taxpayers on the hook for the difference in her retirement pay.
The secret agreement and settlement signed in August was not disclosed to the public and was only uncovered after some digging by the News & Observer newspaper in a series of articles that appeared in November and December of last year.
Mrs. Easley, who is 63 years old, could potentially receive an extra $651,000 dollars over 15 years despite being fired.
The move by NC State University has been criticized greatly in the media in recent weeks as the Easleys continue to skate by and avoid any major repercussions from former Governor Mike Easley’s actions in office.
“If Mary Easley was embarassed, those feelings must have been overcome by her desire to get away with more money,” said the Greensboro News & Record newspaper in an editorial in December. ”Sadly, she’s finally succeeded.”
“It would be better to go to court than to give in to an unreasonable demand by someone who must think she’s still entitled to the privileges of her husband’s former office,” added the newspaper.
A conservative newspaper that first brought questions to Mike Easley’s campaign donation irregularities also opined on the deal.
“As usual, the Easleys will profit handsomely from their misdeeds, remaining silent as they cash in,” said The Carolina Journal in December.
In addition to Mary Easley’s raise, former Governor Mike Easley is scheduled to be reinstated soon as an attorney by the North Carolina State Bar. Unlike most attorneys convicted of a felony charge, Mr. Easley did not have his license to practice law permanently revoked and he is eligible to be reinstated this month. ::
Article Posted: Thursday, January 3rd, 2013.
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