It’s good to be Mary Easley these days. Easley’s attorneys negotiated a settlement with attorneys from N.C. State University that not only more than doubled her state pension payment but also gives her a pension ($80,597) that is more than the pension her husband, Mike Easley is receiving ($71,088) for his service as a state prosecutor and for two terms as North Carolina’s governor.
For those of you unfamiliar with this story, Easley was hired in 2005 to run a speaker bureau series for N.C. State. In 2008, Easley’s responsibilities expanded, her salary increased a whopping 88 percent and she was given a five year contract.
The developments caught the eye of a few reporters and newspaper editors. In early 2009 newspaper accounts revealing how Easley was hired with the help of the Governor along with budget cutting, took away most of her responsibilities and led to calls for Easley’s resignation. She refused to step aside. The developments led to the resignation of Chancellor James Oblinger. And, NC State eliminated the position in July 2009. Easley sought to have her job restored and lost. She also claimed wrongful termination, but never took the case to court.
The deal, negotiated by attorneys and signed off on by N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson keeps Easley from bringing any “breach of contract” action against the University. Woodson said he signed off on the deal because it offered a better deal for the university than the prospect of the added costs of prolonged litigation and the bad publicity for the university.
The deal also allowed Easley to essentially “unretire” and get credit for three years that she hadn’t worked. Huh? Easley is now credited with having worked three years at a salary of $170,000. The settlement also dictated that both sides would have to make payments on premiums. NC State paid approximately $90,000 to cover state benefit obligations to Easley during this period. Woodson said the payments were made from private donations.
The settlement gives NC State the opportunity to move on without ever having to bring to light the sordid details of why Mary Easley was hired; why she was paid an exorbitant salary and what exactly she was supposed to do. Yes, the settlement protects NC State’s interests. However you have to ask: Do the interests of NC State trump those of the taxpayer? Why should taxpayers pay for the university’s mistakes?
The settlement sweeps the episode under the rug and ensures that no one will be held to account for their actions. Is that the kind of leadership we expect from the state’s largest public university?