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New twist in the NCSU/Easley saga

We may hear from Mary Easley today.

The former First Lady will speak to media today. She's scheduled an 11 a.m. press conference.

Mrs. Easley has not spoken at any length about her controversial appointment at N.C. State, which was the matter of much scrutiny last year and has become a political football in recent weeks.


The many sides of Bowles

The situation involving former Gov. Mike Easley, wife Mary Easley, NCSU Provost Larry Nielsen, NCSU Trustees chairman McQueen Campbell, NCSU Chancellor James Oblinger and UNC System President Erskine Bowles has so many overlapping angles, opinion writers and drawers should have plenty of fodder for a while.

Here's a look at Charlotte Observer cartoonist Kevin Siers' take on the tangle. Following is N&O cartoonist Dwane Powell's toon from Sunday, May 17.

Charlotte Observer: Step down, Mary Easley

The Charlotte Observer has chimed in on the Mike-and-Mary-Easley/N.C. State controversy, recommending that the former First Lady step down from her post at NCSU.

The Observer writes that Easley's job at NCSU, cloaked in questions related to her husband's connections to NCSU's now-former board chairman, "smells bad."

Read it here.

At NCSU, Oblinger wants Mary Easley out

The plot thickens in West Raleigh.

N.C. State Chancellor James Oblinger now says Mary Easley - one of his employees - ought to resign.

Easley has worked at NCSU since 2005. A change in her job description and associated jump in pay was the subject of much controversy last year. 

But with new reports about the close ties between Easley,  her husband, former Gov. Mike Easley, with NCSU higher-ups, the shake-up continues.

Campbell resigns at NCSU

McQueen Campbell, whose close ties to former Gov. Mike Easley were the subject of a News & Observer investigation, has resigned as chair of N.C. State's board of trustees.

In doing so, he insisted he's done nothing improper.


Turmoil at N.C. State

Things are unraveling over at N.C. State.

Provost Larry Nielsen has resigned and UNC system President Erskine Bowles wants the chair of NCSU's board of trustees, McQueen Campbell, to step down as well in the wake of News & Observer reporter Andy Curliss' reporting on the university's links to former Gov. Mike Easley.

Campbell, it should be pointed out, is a lame duck chairman. His term is over in a matter of weeks. 

But Bowles said Thursday he was surprised that Campbell played any sort of role in the controversial hiring at NCSU of then-First Lady Mary Easley, who directs a speaker series and has other duties as well.


Easley/NCSU links examined

In a series of exhaustively-researched stories over the weekend, reporter Andy Curliss examines former Gov. Mike Easley and his many associations.

One, in particular, should be interesting to observers of higher education in North Carolina: McQueen Campbell, an Easley confidant who the governor twice appointed to the board of trustees at NCSU. Campbell, who now chairs that board - and did do when First Lady Mary Easley was given a massive pay raise - will soon step down when his term expires.

Curliss examined Easley's relationship with Campbell in the second major piece of his series. You can read that story here.

Here's a link to the entire story package, complete with timeline of events.

Rating the governor

We asked in today's editorial (read it here) what you have to say about Gov. Mike Easley's tenure. Some high points were More at Four and Learn to Earn, a couple of education initiatives. One of the biggest lows was mental health reform.

Meeker wants Raleigh prepared for when federal money starts flowing

UPDATE: Meeker says the press conference has been delayed until next Tuesday (Dec. 16) so the city can have a better list of projects that it will request help on. 


With it looking more and more likely that President-elect Barack Obama will propose a massive federal spending bill when he takes office next year, Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker plans to hold a press conference to highlight Raleigh's own needs. "It's gonna happen," Meeker said this morning of the federal aid package. "We want to know what the process is going to be so Raleigh gets its share."

Meeker said it's important that Raleigh is prepared to present its case when federal money is available for public projects such as schools, roads and bridges. He said the city would work with consultants, such as the infrastructure firm Kimley-Horn, that have contacts in Washington D.C. and may be able to provide insight into how the aid package will be distributed.

Obama met with the nation's governors last week, including current North Carolina Governor Mike Easley and his successor Beverly Perdue. Of course, depending how the aid package is structured, Meeker may end up lobbying Perdue's administration more than the Obama administration if governors are given the power to decide how the money gets spent. And Raleigh won't be the only local government with hat in hand. Every city and county in the state is being hurt by decling sales tax and excise tax revenues. The state's Department of Transporation is already slashing costs.




Bold words over press access

Following is the Public Editor column from Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008:

The News & Observer seems to be increasingly at odds with government these days over public records.

This month, the paper's lawyers protested when a state judge sealed records related to handling of drunken-driving charges in Johnston County. Before that, the fight was over access to search warrants in the murder case of Nancy Cooper, the Canadian-born Cary mom. In May and June, the paper sued for access to autopsy records in the Eve Carson murder case.

The N&O has been in an ongoing battle with Gov. Mike Easley over access to e-mail records and has sued to stop his administration from destroying e-mails. The latest skirmish came last month, after The N&O requested e-mails from six officials of the Department of Health and Human Services relating to the opening of the new Central Regional Hospital in Butner.

In a column Aug. 3, Executive Editor John Drescher complained that it took the department a month to respond to the request, including 11 days for the public information office to forward the request to the officials. Drescher called Easley's office "the worst administration in decades" in terms of open government, then issued this warning to the two major-party candidates who want to replace Easley:

If you are as obstructive as Easley, he told Patrick McCrory and Beverly Perdue, "We will fight you. We will sue you. We will report on your obstruction and law-breaking. And I will pound you in this column."

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