News: CJ Exclusives

Questions Surround Mary Easley’s NCSU Job

Hiring coincides with real estate deal and trustee reappointment

Some questions still surround first lady Mary Easley’s initial hiring at NCSU at $80,000 a year although the UNC Board of Governors on Sept. 12 approved a $90,000 pay raise and five-year contract for her at NC State.

In 2005 she left her part-time teaching job at NC Central and began working at NCSU for $80,000 a year. Carolina Journal has been unable to determine who initially suggested that NCSU hire her. Like her new job, her initial job in 2005 was not advertised and no one else was interviewed.

Her recent salary approval came only after UNC system President Erskine Bowles forced NCSU officials to rewrite her job description.

Bowles told reporters after the board meeting that the initial arrangement which Ms. Easley had with NCSU was not acceptable and that he would not take it to his board for approval. The original offer from NCSU had Ms. Easley working only nine months and that all of her salary would come from public funds. Bowles said he demanded that she work 12 months a year and that one-third of her $170,000 salary come from money she raised privately.

Her new pay represents an 88 percent raise. She will continue to work for NCSU Provost Larry Nielsen, the school’s chief academic officer. Her title is senior lecturer, and her duties include setting up a public safety leadership program, recruiting speakers for a lecture series, coordinating a pre-law program, and teaching two courses.

Nielsen said the details that led to the initial hiring of Ms. Easley at NCSU were unclear. He said he didn’t remember who suggested he talk with her. Chancellor James Oblinger said he did not know who suggested Ms. Easley for employment.

Bowles said also that he did not know how Ms. Easley first came to NCSU. Efforts to obtain an explanation from Ms. Easley have been unsuccessful.

The Campbell factor

A Charlotte Observer story in 2006 described NCSU Board of Trustees member Dallas McQueen Campbell, III, as a longtime friend and campaign contributor to Gov. Mike Easley.

Campbell would not talk to CJ by phone and his written response to questions by e-mail about any role he might have had in Ms. Easley’s hiring was vague

Campbell, a 1993 graduate of NCSU, became a real estate broker in 2000. He played a key role in a 2005 real estate transaction in which the Easleys purchased a waterfront lot in the Carteret County Cannonsgate development for $549,880. News reports later showed that the price the Easleys paid for the lot was significantly less than comparable sales in the same development. One year after the purchase, county tax officials appraised the lot at $1.2 million.

Easley has stated he bought the lot as an investment. It is currently the second-most valuable lot in the 525-lot development. Easley does not own one of the 75 separate boat slips at the Cannonsgate Marina, but Campbell, through one of his companies, owns five.

In 2006, when asked about his relationship with the governor, Campbell told the Observer, “Its pretty common people are going to do business with people they know and trust. I don’t know too many people who do business with their enemies.”

The governor appointed Campbell to the Board of Trustees in 2001 and reappointed him in 2005. Campbell was elected chairman of the NCSU board in 2007. Easley also appointed Campbell’s father, D. M. Campbell, Jr., to the N.C. Board of Transportation in 2001.

Campbell’s disclosure

As a member of the NCSU Board of Trustees, Campbell is required to complete a Statement of Economic Interest and deliver it to the State Ethics Commission. Campbell’s statement appears to be incomplete or misleading.

On his most recent form, submitted in April, Campbell listed eight business entities that he has financial interests in, including Campbell Property Group, Inc. and Campbell Development, LLC. He listed himself as an owner of both entities.

The N.C. Secretary of State corporation records show Campbell as the manager of Campbell Development. Carteret County property tax records show that Campbell Development owns six lots and five boat slips in Cannonsgate. The most valuable lot has a tax value of $707,834. The individually deeded boat slips are valued at either $85,000 or $100,000. The total tax value of Campbell Development’s Cannonsgate properties is $3.9 million.

Under the real estate holdings section of his economic interest statement, Campbell lists only his Wake County residence. He does not list his 11 Cannonsgate properties.

In addition to running his Raleigh-based company, Campbell Property Group, documents obtained by CJ list Campbell as the director of acquisitions for a group of waterfront development and financing companies headed by William G. (Gary) Allen, an N.C. native who now lives in Florida. Allen’s companies developed Cannonsgate. They are also developing two other waterfront communities in North Carolina — Summerhouse on Everett Bay in Onslow County and Cutter Bay in Pamlico County.

Campbell failed to disclose his relationship with Allen on his economic interest statement.

In August, Carolina Journal sent documentation of Campbell’s ownership of Cannonsgate lots and his involvement with Allen’s companies to Ethics Commission Executive Director Perry Newson. Newson acknowledged on Sept. 22 that he has received the material but he said he could not comment on it.

Campbell responds

Campbell did not respond to multiple requests for an interview, but an employee of Campbell Development eventually called CJ and asked that questions be sent to Campbell by e-mail. The questions and responses were as follows:

Question: “Your Statement of Economic Interest did not list your Cannonsgate lots or your affiliation with Waterfront or any of William G. Allen’s various companies. Why? Please explain.”

Answer: “Cannonsgate Lots — I personally do not own (or hold title to) any lots at Cannonsgate, therefore they were not listed in my SOE [sic]. William G. Allen and/or companies have not done business with NC State University, nor to my knowledge, ever sought to do business with NC State.”

Question: “Who reserved the Cannonsgate lot for Gov. Easley and who set the price? Please be specific.”

Answer: “I represented Gov. Easley in the transaction where he purchased a residential lot in Cannonsgate. I was a buyer’s agent for Gov. Easley and had nothing to do, nor any input in, the pricing of the lots.”

Question: “Did Gov. Easley pay a down payment on the lot?”

Answer: “I have no knowledge of how Gov. Easley paid for his lot.”

Question: “The deed had your Raleigh address on it. Will you provide a copy of the sales contract?”

Answer: “The detailed real estate information for all my clients is confidential.”

Question: “Did you discuss a job for Mary Easley with any NCSU official at any time? Please explain.”

Answer: “I was briefed, as were all Trustees, on the decision to hire Mrs. Easley and was fully supportive, as were all Trustees, of this decision. We had no vote on the matter at any time when she was hired. The decision to hire Mrs. Easley was made by the Provost. However, I am fully supportive of the decision by the Provost, the Board of Trustees Academic Affairs & Personnel Committee, and the UNC Board of Governors in supporting the hiring of Mrs. Easley. She has been a huge asset for NC State and will continue to be into the future.”

Don Carrington is executive editor of Carolina Journal.