Easley to appear at news conference

May 21, 2009 7:42:36 AM PDT
An attorney representing Former North Carolina first lady Mary Easley says she plans to attend a news conference this morning.Marvin Schiller declined to say what would be announced and if Easley herself would speak.

Meanwhile Wednesday, there was yet another resignation in the ongoing investigation of Easley and her husband - former North Carolina Governor Mike Easley.

North Carolina Department of Transportation board member Cameron McRae told Governor Beverly Perdue that he would step down effective immediately.

According to reports in the Raleigh News and Observer, McRae gave Easley airplane flights that neither man disclosed in campaign records - a possible violation of state law.

North Carolina law requires the disclosure of gifts over $200. The law also prevents corporations from donating to campaigns and limits individuals to giving $4,000 to a candidate in an election cycle. The market value of many of the flights appears to be over $4,000 or enough to top the legal limit when combined with other contributions. It can cost up to $1,300 an hour to charter the kind of private plane the governor needs to travel.

Easley appointed McRae to a third four-year term on the transportation board in early January, just days before he left office.

Also Wednesday, the North Carolina Highway Patrol said it has complied with federal subpoenas for Easley's travel records.

Captain Everett Clendenin told Eyewitness News that the records have been turned over. Federal officials picked up the documents Tuesday afternoon. However, the Patrol did not find the Easley's 2005 travel documents which it says are missing.

Clendenin also said as of Wednesday morning, the Patrol now has a formal record keeping process for both the Governor and Lt. Governor as it relates to travel with state troopers.

The former governor and his family have been under intense scrutiny since he left office. A series of reports in the Raleigh News and Observer have examined the free trips along with his relationships with car dealers and a land deal.

The State Board of Elections is investigating, and a grand jury - which met again Wednesday - has spent time looking at an arrangement where Easley's wife and son drove cars provided by car dealerships for free. In a past interview with Eyewitness News, Easley said he owned the cars, but DMV records show Easley bought a used GMC Yukon which his son had been driving two days after our interview.

Mary Easley also drove a car that was characterized as "a loaner" for months.

Easley and his wife have refused all interview requests, but in a statement released to the media over the weekend, Easley said he was "comfortable" with the scrutiny of his affairs.

"I am comfortable with the federal authorities collecting and reviewing all records relating to my 30 years of public service to the people of North Carolina," Easley said. "I am confident of the outcome, and we look forward to moving on with our private lives," he wrote.

NC State involved

The potential scandal has widened to include NC State University.

Robert Jordan was chosen Wednesday to replace McQueen Campbell as NC State Board of Trustees Chairman after he resigned over questions about the hiring of Mary Easley.

She got a three-year contract at $80,000 a year in 2005 and later a 5-year contract worth $850,000 to run a campus speaker series and a public safety center. There have been suggestions that the hiring was some kind of quid pro quo - something university officials have vigorously denied.

Campbell's resignation was preceded by Provost Larry Nielsen's departure last Thursday. He too cited scrutiny of his role in getting Easley her job.

"On Sunday, May 10, The News & Observer published a story implying that I was hired as a political favor in exchange for my hiring of Mrs. Easley. This implication is preposterous," said Nielsen in his resignation letter to faculty.

Campell stepped down of Friday after UNC President Erskine Bowles asked him to. Bowles said Campbell told him he had mentioned to N.C. State's chancellor that Mary Easley wanted to change jobs.

Campbell has said he played no part in Easley getting her job.

"I am not resigning because I have acted inappropriately. Both the chancellor and the provost have communicated publicly and independently that the hiring process of Mary Easley was free from any improper influence," Campbell wrote in a resignation letter to Governor Beverly Perdue.

NC State Chancellor James Oblinger confirmed to Eyewitness News that Federal subpoenas were delivered to the school Tuesday regarding the hiring of Easley.

"All I know is that there is a federal investigation. As I was leaving Holladay Hall, I'm told subpoenas were delivered requesting documents related to her hiring, going back to her original hire date of 2002 when she first started teaching," said Oblinger.

Read the federal subpoenas delivered to NC State

Despite the denials of any wrongdoing, both UNC system President Erskine Bowles and Oblinger have said Mary Easley should step down.

When asked last week about his role in Easley's hiring, Chancellor Oblinger told Eyewitness News he has no recollection of a conversation about her being available or interested in a job with the university. He reiterated previous statements that there was no connection between Easley's hiring and Larry Nielsen's promotion to provost.

When speaking to Eyewitness News on Tuesday, he said he is not feeling pressure to resign and does not plan to step down.

The provost and the chancellor will be called to testify before a grand jury on Thursday about the Easley investigations.


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