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Ann McCrory won't host First Lady luncheon during inaugural

Ann McCrory, the wife of incoming Gov. Pat McCrory, won't host a First Lady's luncheon as part of the inaugural festivities next week.

The Junior League organizes the luncheon but Ann McCrory declined to attend and didn't offer a reason, organizers said.

Mary Easley, the wife of Gov. Mike Easley, started the tradition in 2000 and continued in 2004. But Bob Eaves, the husband of Gov. Bev Perdue, declined to do a first gentleman's lunch in 2008.

Ann McCrory has remained largely out of the spotlight during her husband's gubernatorial run, rarely appearing on the campaign trail.

Morning Roundup: Mental health deal in limbo, Mary Easley's pension doubles

Future treatment for as many as 3,000 Wake County people with mental illness remains in limbo as the county works to complete a partnership with UNC Health Care and the Alliance managed care organization. Full story here.

More political headlines from the weekend:

--N.C. State University has reached an out-of-court settlement with former First Lady Mary Easley over her abrupt firing three years ago in a deal that more than doubled her state pension payment, according to interviews and documents.

What costume should Gov. Perdue wear for Halloween?

Gov. Bev Perdue and First Gentleman Bob Eaves are hosting trick-or-treaters this evening at the Executive Mansion but don't expect them to don a scary costume.

A governor's office spokeswoman says Perdue and Eaves will appear as themselves. (Insert your own punch line here.)

So don't expect anything like this costume (at right)  from former First Lady Mary Easley, submitted by reader Bob Wheeler who took his family by the mansion in 2007.

Maybe Perdue and Eaves just didn't have ideas for a costume.

Got an idea for them? Put it in the comments section and we'll update the list later today.

Too Young for senior moments on e-mail

The state's secretary for Crime Control and Public Safety might want to stock up on some gingko.

Reuben Young appeared to be struggling with memory loss last month as he was questioned as part of a lawsuit filed by numerous media organizations, including The N&O and The Charlotte Observer, against former governor Mike Easley over his administration's systematic deletion of e-mails.

During his sworn deposition, Young, who served as Easley's chief legal counsel, answered with a variation of "I do not recall" more than 30 times, according to a transcript.

Under state law, the e-mails of government employees are public records. However, in 2004 Young and Ruffin Poole drafted a policy for the governor's office that allowed staff members to erase any e-mail messages they deemed to "no longer have administrative or reference value."

Asked if he could remember what statute or case law he consulted to come to the interpretation that e-mails could be erased, Young answered: "I don't specifically recall."

Asked if he ever sent or received messages from a secret e-mail account used by Easley, the address for which was "Nick Danger" spelled backwards, Young said: "Certainly not that I can recall."

Asked if Easley ever gave copies of e-mails from his secret e-mail account to review for potential release under public records requests, Young answered: "I don't specifically recall that, but he may have."

Did Young remember reviewing requests from the media regarding documents related to Easley's undisclosed flights on private aircraft? "I can't recall if I saw that request or not," Young replied.

Did he ever communicate with First Lady Mary Easley through her secret e-mail account? "I don't know if I did or not. I could have," Young replied.

It is little wonder that in 2008, after a fired public affairs officer said she had been ordered to delete all e-mail to or from the governor's staff every day, Easley tapped Young to lead his internal investigation into whether the state's public records law had been violated.

The very next day, Young issued a letter stating there was absolutely no evidence of an effort to delete e-mail messages.

Earlier this year, former press secretary Renee Hoffman testified under oath that Easley ordered his staff to delete e-mail messages so they would not become public.

Dome hopes Young, who now supervises the troubled Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies, has better luck remembering where he left his car keys.

Mary Easley lawyer said university mishandled her challenge to firing

LAWYERS OBJECT: N.C. State University officials have misled the public about the dispute over former first lady Mary Easley's effort to contest her firing, her attorneys said in a letter Friday. (N&O)

STATE JOINS SUIT OVER PROTESTS: N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper has joined his counterparts from 47 other states and the District of Columbia in support of a lawsuit against a Topeka, Kansas, church whose members picket military funerals. (N&O)

FEUD OVER INNOCENCE COMMISSION: A key founder of the fledgling Innocence Inquiry Commission is pushing for sweeping reform to the agency.

The commission, the first of its kind in the country, won its first case in February, exonerating and freeing Greg Taylor, who spent 17 years in prison wrongfully convicted of murder.

Though the landmark case won the commission many accolades across the country, it also exposed weaknesses in the novel process, some say. Others say the commission needs time to work before major changes are made. (N&O)

State officials greet federal education secretary

CAN WE HAVE OUR MONEY NOW? North Carolina officials welcomed U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to the state Thursday. But it was not so much a federal visit that the state was after but federal cash.

The state is seeking a two-pronged infusion that would help retain thousands of teachers and boost student achievement. State leaders recently submitted an application for Race to the Top, a plan to offer $3.4 billion to states to improve classroom performance. And Gov. Bev Perdue and others have endorsed a $23 billion federal teacher bailout plan that could save several thousand teaching jobs in North Carolina and many more nationally. (N&O)

NO, REALLY. CAN WE? The State Board of Education unanimously adopted national standards for public school students Thursday, becoming one of the first states to sign on. (N&O

NO REPLY: After former first lady Mary Easley failed to respond in the grievance she filed about her firing, N.C. State University dismissed the case. (N&O)

Mary Easley also used private account

Every private eye needs a dame and Gov. Nick Danger had "sewgood."

Former Gov. Mike Easley used a private e-mail account to conduct state business among a small group of high-level advisors. The address, which began with "RegnadKcin," was "Nick Danger" spelled backwards.

As we have noted (and really, can we say it enough?) Nick Danger was the satirical private eye featured in Firesign Theatre performances. The backwards bit may have come from a joke in the show or it may have been a reflection of the fact that Easley wrote backwards, Sherri Johnson, his communications director said.

Johnson testified in a deposition taken in a public records lawsuit against Easley's administration that First lady Mary Easley also had a private e-mail account. Johnson, who said she didn't know Mary Easley well, did not recall using the address — which was something like "sewgood" — for state business.

"Mostly it was personal. I remember she sent me a bread recipe. She would talk about my son," Johnson said.

See, it happened like this...

Larry Nielsen felt compelled to explain on his resume how it was that he came to quit the provost job at N.C. State University.

Nielsen is a finalist for the No. 2 job at the University of Akron.

His qualifications posted to the Ohio university's Web site include a special note about why he left the big job at NCSU.

Nielsen stepped down as provost and executive vice chancellor last May, amid a political controversy involving the former state governor. According to Nielsen, four years earlier and while still interim provost, Nielsen had hired the first lady, then a law-school faculty member at another University of North Carolina institution, to create and run a university-level speakers' series that experienced great success over the intervening years. However, after the end of the governor's term, a local newspaper published a wide ranging set of allegations regarding the former governor that also included questions about the hiring of the first lady. Nielsen said he resigned to quell the controversy and to shelter his family from unwarranted media coverage. He cooperated fully with authorities investigating the matter, and the inquiry as it related to Nielsen is closed.

As the N&O has previously reported, Nielsen and former NCSU Chancellor James Oblinger repeatedly misrepresented how Mary Easley came to be employed at NCSU. They originally said that Nielsen hired her on his own when he was an interim provost. 

In reality, records showed that former Gov. Mike Easley, NCSU Board of Trustees Chairman McQueen Campbell, Oblinger and Nielsen were discussing the job for long before she was hired.

Nielsen a finalist for Ohio job

Larry Nielsen, former N.C. State University provost, is a finalist for the No. 2 job at the University of Akron.

The Akron Beacon Journal reported that Nielsen is one of three finalists who will visit the Ohio campus for meetings and interviews in February. The university publicly announced the finalists' names on Wednesday.

Nielsen recently returned to the classroom at NCSU, where he teaches a conservation course in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. He said this week that he was enjoying being back in the classroom.

Nielsen had been on a six-month leave after stepping down as provost. He was one of three top leaders at NCSU who resigned amid questions about their role in the hiring of Mary Easley, former first lady. James Oblinger, former chancellor, and McQueen Campbell, former trustee chairman, also resigned.

Oblinger has returned to work on the new research campus in Kannapolis. He had been a finalist last fall for the job of president of the New Mexico State University system. 

Basnight dismisses pier claims

Senate leader Marc Basnight dismissed allegations that he profited from or had any role in the awarding of a subcontract to his cousin's construction company in the $25 million project to build an aquarium and pier in Nags Head. (N&O)

Former Chancellor Jim Oblinger and former Provost Larry Nielsen — who left their N.C. State University posts over the controversial hiring of former first lady Mary Easley are professors now for the university. (N&O)

A North Carolina nonprofit will receive more than $28 million in federal stimulus funds to extend the state's broadband Internet network by nearly 500 miles. (AP)

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