Mary Easley's 88 percent pay raise questioned

July 3, 2008 7:35:37 AM PDT
There is more controversy surrounding First Lady Mary Easley in the wake of expensive taxpayer funded trips abroad by both the first lady and Governor Mike Easley.

Eyewitness News has learned that Mary Easley got an 88 percent raise at her job at N.C. State University.

Until this week, Mary Easley got paid $90,000 a year to recruit speakers to come to campus. Now her job duties have expanded to include directing a public safety program and co-directing a pre-law program. Her salary has expanded to $170,000 a year.

"I realize she's gonna spend more time at it and there could have been some raise. But essentially almost doubling her salary is just totally inappropriate." State Representative Skip Stam (R-Wake) is the minority leader of the state House.

He's a republican who doesn't hesitate to criticize Governor Mike Easley - a democrat - but in the halls of the Legislature, even some democrats are rolling their eyes over the raise given to the governor's wife.

Both the governor and first lady have recently been criticized for lavish spending on expensive trips abroad, paid for with taxpayer money. They counter that those trips could eventually bring big money to North Carolina.

Still, in the midst of the fallout from the trips and negotiations with the Legislature over a state budge, the timing of Mary Easley's raise rankles many like Stam. "State employees who are getting three percent raises will be very, they will not understand this at all," Wake County Representative Stam said.

But Mary Easley's supervisor, N.C. State's provost, defends her new salary for the increased workload.

In a written statement he says, "Mrs. Easley's experience in the legal profession and commitment to public service make her uniquely qualified to direct these efforts at NC State," said Larry Nielsen, provost and executive vice chancellor at NC State.

"Her salary is within the range of similar management and law faculty and administrators at NC State and other universities," Nielsen added.

But to some people Eyewitness News talked with had different opinions. Daladier Miller, a state employee said, "I'd say that it's very interesting that the haves have, and the have nots do not."

Daladier and her colleagues are represented by the State Employees Association of North Carolina. That organization's leadership cried foul when they heard about Mary Easley's raise.

Ardis Watkins with the State Employees Association of N.C. says, "We can't believe this would happen. We certainly can't believe it would happen this year."

Watkins adds, "It's one thing for the governor to be mean-spirited and give raises that don't provide enough for a dollar value meal or gas to get to work for state employees, but the hypocrisy of 60-dollar hamburgers and 88 percent raises being okay for the first lady."

Communications Director Sherri Johnson of the Governor's office submitted the following statement concerning the First Lady's pay raise:

"Mary Easley is the only First Lady to have a professional career while her husband was in office. The First Lady has a long and distinguished career as a lawyer who has broken barriers for women in her profession.

"She graduated from Wake Forest University and law school with highest honors and Phi Beta Kappa. After law school, she was a prosecutor for 10 years, then private practice for 8 years and for the last 15 years she has worked in academics at the university.

"She is a true professional and is uniquely qualified for her new job. If she were a man, her salary would not be an issue."


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