NC State officials testify

June 17, 2009 2:22:32 PM PDT
Former NC State University Chancellor Jim Oblinger was the first to face a grand jury Wednesday in the investigation of former North Carolina Governor Mike Easley and his wife Mary.Oblinger walked past waiting TV cameras with his attorney and had no comment as he entered the federal courthouse in downtown Raleigh.

The federal grand jury is looking into the hiring of Mary Easley to a lucrative position at NC State while her husband was still Governor. Easley was hired in 2005 to run a speakers series. She later got more duties and a larger salary - $170,000 per year.

Both Oblinger and former Provost Larry Nielsen have resigned over the hiring, and both were subpoenaed to testify.

"The chancellor is going, as he has said all along, to cooperate in every way with this investigation. When he was still chancellor, he directed everyone at N.C. State to do the same thing," Oblinger's attorney, Press Millen, told the Associated Press. "He is going there ... with the intention of answering all of the questions of the grand jury."

Oblinger resigned last week as the university released e-mails showing that he had played a role in Easley's hiring. He said he did not recall his contribution until reading the e-mails and said the hiring involved no impropriety and no coercion.

Click here to read more details about the e-mails

"I am absolutely confident that when this chapter of NC State's history is written, the only conclusion drawn will be that the University and all of its officials acted both correctly and honorably," Oblinger said in his resignation statement.

The university's board of trustees voted to fire Easley the day Oblinger resigned. Two others, the provost and the chairman of the board of trustees, have also resigned amid questions about their roles into Easley's job.

The e-mails also indicate that former Gov. Mike Easley played a role in his wife's hiring, as did McQueen Campbell, the former chairman of the trustees board.

A series of stories in The News & Observer of Raleigh showed that Campbell had provided private flights for Easley during his time in office. Separate federal subpoenas have also sought the Easley family travel records.

Also Wednesday, the head of the North Carolina Ports Authority testified in front of the grand jury, after they had been subpoenaed about a deal related to a Southport marina that led to an ethics complaint against former Governor Easley several years ago.

That complaint was dismissed.


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