Todayâ€™s Triangle Business Journal features NC State â€œboosterâ€ Steve Stroud doing a little â€œboostingâ€ for someone else: former four-term governor Jim Hunt.
Stroud, it seems, thinks Hunt would be a dandy occupant for the vacant chancellorâ€™s chair at NC State: â€œJim Hunt would do a great job bringing the university back together.â€ In fact, says Stroud, it’s “absolutely logical” to put Hunt in the chancellor’s office.
Sorry, Mr. Stroud: Jim Hunt as chancellor would be perhaps the worst possible choice for NC State as it cleans house in the wake of a disastrous political patronage hiring scandal.
Jim Hunt as governor ran a political patronage machine that permeated every corner of state government. Key â€œpatronage persons,â€ with approval or disapproval rights over hiring decisions made by managers and personnel professionals, were sown throughout the state government structure. At Broughton Hospital in Morganton, for example, the â€œpatronage personâ€ during the Hunt years was â€“ a barber. Thatâ€™s right: if you wanted to hire someone at one of the stateâ€™s largest mental health institutions, you cleared it with the barber.
That was state government under Jim Hunt. And itâ€™s exactly what we donâ€™t need at NC State.
The Klown Kar-full of officials exiting the school over the past few weeks â€“ chancellor, provost, board of trustees chair â€“ got the bumâ€™s rush because of precisely the kind of political patronage hiring that was SOP in the Hunt era. Mary Easley, itâ€™s now clear, was placed in her overpaid, cobbled-together sinecure because her hubby the Gov and his pals wanted her there â€“ pure political patronage. No job posting. No interview process. No review of applications. Just a few quiet emails and phone calls, and â€¦ presto! Mary Easleyâ€™s getting $14,000.00 per month to call up the Washington Speakerâ€™s Bureau and teach a class for which a â€œcolleagueâ€ was paid $5,000.00 per year.
And now, out pops Steve Stroud from the smoking ruins of our universityâ€™s honor and proposes that the remedy for a ruinous political patronage hiring scandal is: install North Carolina’s king of political patronage hiring as chancellor. It is to laugh, if only the man wasnâ€™t serious.
Restoring integrity to university hiring practices is central to repairing NC Stateâ€™s reputation both internally and with the public it serves. Assigning Jim Hunt to oversee that process is like assigning Otis the town drunk to fix problems at the ABC store. NC State can, and should, do better than Jim Hunt.