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N.C. State chancellor resigns in Easley hiring flap

RALEIGH (AP) ó The chancellor at North Carolina State University resigned Monday, the third official to step down amid questions about the hiring of the former governor’s wife for a university post.
Chancellor James Oblinger said in a statement released by the university that he is stepping down because the scrutiny of a job given to former first lady Mary Easley is a distraction for the school.
Oblinger had asked Easley to resign her position, but she hasn’t. Easley’s attorney, Marvin Schiller, did not immediately return a phone call Monday seeking comment.
N.C. State has been under fire because of a severance package of about $300,000 that Oblinger gave to the official who hired Easley and because of the salary Easley received. The official, former provost Larry Nielsen, resigned last month.
“The only reason I am announcing my resignation is that I am applying to myself the same standards I have asked Mrs. Easley to apply to herself: I am doing it because it is in the best interests of NC State University,” Oblinger said.
Oblinger said he was confident that university officials had “acted both correctly and honorably.”
He will return to the faculty, Oblinger said.
Oblinger also said the university planned to make public the documents it has given to a federal grand jury that is looking into Mary Easley’s hiring as well as the use of private aircraft by former Gov. Mike Easley when he was in office.
In addition to Oblinger and Nielsen’s resignations, the controversy prompted former N.C. State board chairman McQueen Campbell to resign.
Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina system, said in a memo to board members that retired chancellor Jim Woodward of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte had agreed to serve as interim chancellor.
Bowles said Oblinger will be given a six-month leave at his current salary and then will return to his former position as a professor of food science.

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