06/09/09 — A black eye: Easley firing necessary step to clean up NCSU mess

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A black eye: Easley firing necessary step to clean up NCSU mess

A stench that had escaped the statehouse and was swiftly filling up the hallowed halls of North Carolina State University has started to dissipate, finally.

Nothing against former Gov. Mike Easley's wife, Mary. She is probably a nice person -- and might even have been a decent addition to the staff at NCSU -- even if it is really unlikely that she was worth a five-year, $170,000 contract.

But the questions that have surrounded her hiring -- and the mini-flood of uncomfortable discussions and resignations of those involved with the incident -- suggest that there is real reason to be concerned about the political pressure that resulted in such a nice contract at one of the state's top universities for the former first lady.

And now, with the revelation of e-mails from the former governor regarding the appointment, there is even more reason to believe that this hire was not made on the candidate's merits alone.

So, the NCSU board's decision this week to put an end to the agreement was not only absolutely correct, it was absolutely necessary.

It seems hard to believe that there is still scandal coming out of North Carolina government. It is shocking that Jim Black and his crew were not the end or that there have been even more mini-scandals that have cast a pall on the public's trust over the past couple of years.

But this recent revelation as the state faces a more than $4 billion budget shortfall makes you wonder just how many sweetheart deals are still lurking around the halls of the Raleigh government.

Of course, we know why no one spoke out about the Easley shenanigans before now -- there would not be a Democratic governor in the mansion right now. No way. The taint would just have been too great.

But that is an argument for another day.

There is something to be learned from this mess.

If there was ever an argument for term limits and for the theory that there are just too many career politicians out for their own selfish interest -- or even that there should be a purge of government officials, period -- these past few years have given that call credence.

How did we get to this point? Could it be the scrutiny that running for office requires? Could it be that we are not watching closely enough?

No matter what the answer, one thing is clear: It is time to get a lot tougher and smarter about whom we pick -- and keep -- to represent us.

Published in Editorials on June 9, 2009 10:12 AM