The dispute between former first lady Mary Easley and university leaders over her $170,000-a-year job at N.C. State exploded into full verbal combat Thursday, but Easley didn't say a word.
Instead, her attorney, Marvin Schiller, read one glowing performance review after another, including one from one of the very officials now calling for her to resign. She stood by his side, smiling tightly and silent.
The controversy around her is a "theater of the absurd," Schiller said.
About an hour later, the university and UNC system fired back. They released written statements from UNC system President Erskine Bowles and Bob Jordan, the new chairman of the N.C. State Board of Trustees, who had been elected less than a day earlier to replace Easley family friend McQueen Campbell.
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Campbell, a confidant of the Easleys who benefitted from decisions made by the governor's administration, quit last week after admitting he had suggested hiring Mary Easley in 2005.
Bowles and Jordan in their statements reiterated calls for her to step down to quiet the controversy that has enveloped the Raleigh campus.
Schiller's news conference, though, made it clear that Easley is not leaving without a fight, or perhaps a buyout of the remaining four years of her five-year, $850,000 contract.
"Mary Easley plans to continue to make outstanding contributions to North Carolina State University and the state of North Carolina," Schiller said.
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