05/22/09 — See her justify: Mary Easley's contract just more political payback for family

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See her justify: Mary Easley's contract just more political payback for family

Want incontrovertible proof that former Gov. Mike Easley's wife, Mary, needs to resign her post at North Carolina State University and seek another job?

Here it is: She actually had the temerity to say -- through her attorney -- that she snagged a five-year contract for more than $850,000 completely on her own merits without the help of her husband's connections.

She actually seems to think that her husband's influence -- and her position as first lady of the state of North Carolina -- did not color statements made about her performance, but also did not influence the negotiations that led to the offer that she take a position at the school.

When you hear it put like that, it is pretty easy to understand, isn't it? So, why can't she?

Well, maybe a few more people could get together and explain politics and perks to the Easleys. It might help them as they continue to deal with federal investigations into the former governor's stylized interpretation of the campaign donation rules.

But back to NCSU and the future of its $170,000 a year employee.

Reality is, in this job market, there are not exactly millions of contracts being signed for positions like the one Mary Easley holds -- and certainly not too many that would command a salary like she has snagged or guarantee employment for five years.

The fact is, Mary Easley did not get that job under her own power -- or she would already have been in it when her husband started serving his term as governor. There was no one clamoring for her services at NCSU before she added "first lady" to her resume.

To assume political connections had nothing to do with the contract -- a five-year contract, which seem only to be handed out to college coaches these days, and not many of them, either -- is quite simply, absurd.

So, Mary Easley is going to fight. Most people probably expected that. With so much money on the line, and a signed contract, that seemed like a no-brainer.

And NCSU is not innocent in this either.

Approving such a contract -- in this economic climate -- was irresponsible at best and jaw-droppingly stupid at its worst.

But perhaps there is a silver lining to this cloud. Maybe all contracts like this -- especially ones that just don't smell right -- will get closer looks from those who are charged with safeguarding the state's finances. One can only hope.

And in the meantime, get ready. We taxpayers are likely to get stuck with this $850,000 eyesore of political partisanship -- at least for a few more years.

Published in Editorials on May 22, 2009 10:50 AM