Today’s Triangle Business Journal features NC State “booster” Steve Stroud doing a little “boosting” for someone else: former four-term governor Jim Hunt.
Stroud, it seems, thinks Hunt would be a dandy occupant for the vacant chancellor’s chair at NC State: “Jim Hunt would do a great job bringing the university back together.” 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 “patronage persons,” 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 “patronage person” during the Hunt years was – a barber. That’s right: if you wanted to hire someone at one of the state’s largest mental health institutions, you cleared it with the barber.
That was state government under Jim Hunt. And it’s exactly what we don’t need at NC State.
The Klown Kar-full of officials exiting the school over the past few weeks – chancellor, provost, board of trustees chair – got the bum’s rush because of precisely the kind of political patronage hiring that was SOP in the Hunt era. Mary Easley, it’s now clear, was placed in her overpaid, cobbled-together sinecure because her hubby the Gov and his pals wanted her there – pure political patronage. No job posting. No interview process. No review of applications. Just a few quiet emails and phone calls, and … presto! Mary Easley’s getting $14,000.00 per month to call up the Washington Speaker’s Bureau and teach a class for which a “colleague” was paid $5,000.00 per year.
And now, out pops Steve Stroud from the smoking ruins of our university’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 wasn’t serious.
Restoring integrity to university hiring practices is central to repairing NC State’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.