Thursday, May 21, 2009

Former NC First Lady Hired: Merit or Pressure?

University of North Carolina hires the state's former First Lady. Was she hired in her own right through merit or did her husband exert political pressure?

Does it matter where a First Lady works, lives or travels? One state questions spousal influence.

Mary Easley (above) is the [former] First Lady of North Carolina and a professor of law at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. Mrs. Easley earned her undergraduate and law degrees at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. After graduating from law school, she worked as a prosecutor for ten years and then maintained her own litigation practice. Her husband, Mike Easley" was Governor from 2001 to 2009, a Democrat.

North Carolina State University is a four-year public university in Raleigh, North Carolina with total enrollment in the sixteen campus system of 33,000 undergraduate students.

The University Chancellor of the system, James Oblinger, and mighty Erskine Bowles, ex-politician and UNC President want her to resign because of allegations of possible political pressure in the hiring decision. She has announced through her lawyer that she intends to stay on and keep her five year contract. It is not clear what she has done wrong, beside marrying a man who became Governor. It is not clear what political motivations there could have been. She doesn't appear to have a conflict of interest. An article in today's New York Times linked here claims she now runs a speaker series and a public safety leadership center at UNC.

On further inspection of the issue, though, it appears that the university Provost and Chairman of the Board of Trustees have just resigned. Here is a quote from the UNC alumni site:

"The provost cited among his reasons for resigning the professional and personal anguish caused by continuing newspaper reports implying that his hiring of Mary Easley was done under pressure and improperly influenced by political motives."

"Anguish"?...She currently holds the title of "Executive in Residence in the Office of the Provost." It would appear this is a web of problems we can't possibly get to the bottom of with this post, and it also looks like there are many political and personal issues about this couple making news.

Her husband, the former Governor, is being investigated:

"The News & Observer of Raleigh reported last week that Mr. Easley flew on at least 25 private jets provided by several businessmen while he was in office."

Now that the influence vs. merit issue is out in the open, it is likely to be watched by all the thousands of young girls in North Carolina now growing up, and potentially across the country. Finding a job now is tougher than it's been for years with unemployment on the high side.

A related larger issue is, do you agree or disagree that women married to politicians should sacrifice their careers when their spouses get elected? Males married to female politicians rarely, if ever, do that. Significant historically, the Vice-President's wife, Dr. Jill Biden, is continuing her career with a position in a university.

"As of 2009, she is an adjunct professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College, and she is thought to be the first Second Lady to hold a paying job while her husband is Vice President."

Did North Carolina's former First Lady, Mary Easley, get her job on her own merit or through her husband's political pressure? Is this a Republican "right-wing conspiracy" against a former Democratic Governor? Comments welcome.

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