Big pay hikes in DHHS Secretary’s leadership team

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos gave some very big raises to at least two members of her leadership team.

Ricky Diaz, Wos’ communications director, and Matthew McKillip, her chief policy advisor, got April pay bumps of $23,000 and $22,500, respectively.

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

Diaz now makes $85,000 a year and McKillip makes $87,500, according to state employee salary information maintained on databases at the Charlotte Observer and News & Observer.

Both are 24, two years out of college and came to DHHS after working for Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign and transition teams. Diaz also worked in McCrory’s press office shortly after McCrory was sworn in.

DHHS chief policy advisor Matthew McKillip Source: LinkedIn

DHHS chief policy advisor Matthew McKillip
Source: LinkedIn

State employees received no raises in the recent budget, a decision that’s particularly rankled state teachers who spend 15 years in the classroom before reaching base salaries of $40,000. And Gov. McCrory issued a memo in March directing state agencies to stop salary increases to offset an unexpected Medicaid shortfall.

Wos has declined to take a salary and is being paid $1 a year. The Greensboro physician and her husband are big donors to Republican causes, and she served as an ambassador to Estonia under President George W. Bush.

The News & Observer reported yesterday that McKillip was promoted to the position of chief policy officer, from the DHHS senior policy advisor position he took in January.

Calls to Diaz for comments about the pay raises were not immediately returned Wednesday morning. This post will be updated if we hear back.

McKillip is now making $87,500, after an April 1 pay raise of $22,500, according to a News & Observer database of state employee salaries.  That amounts to a 35 percent increase.

McKillip’s LinkedIn profile shows he graduated from Georgetown University and worked for a year for the conservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute before coming to work on McCrory’s campaign.

Diaz, DHHS’ communications director, is another young rising star in Wos’ department. Now making $85,000, Diaz received a salary increase of 37 percent with his April pay raise of $23,000, according to state employee salary data.

Diaz worked previously for McCrory’s campaign and transition office, and has worked in the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and on the Senate campaign of U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

Source: DHHS employee newsletter

DHHS Communications director Ricky Diaz. Source: agency newsletter

Diaz’s predecessor made $78,481 a year.

The DHHS raises are much higher than what McCrory gave his cabinet secretaries when he took office in January, which continues to stir up controversy amongst teachers and others upset with the lack of pay raises in this year’s budget.  McCrory gave several of his cabinet secretaries raises of 5 to 13 percent, the highest being $13,200.

Did we miss any other big pay raises in state government that we, and the public, should know about? Let us know. You can email reporter Sarah Ovaska at [email protected].


  1. ML

    August 14, 2013 at 11:59 am

    I’m assuming the rational is because Wosser is taking only $1/yr that she can allocate her salary to her policy guys but to give a couple 24 year old kids that much with so little experience is egregious. Their starting salary is more than most teachers will ever see in their entire career. In the end it seems like the repubs are building their own good ole boys club that they alleged to disdain so much within the previous leadership during the run-up to the 2010 elections. Same corruption just in a different color.

  2. John Gullion

    August 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Didn’t McMorsi run on ending cronyism?

  3. rebecca

    August 14, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    They should ALL be ashamed of themselves!!! Many quality teachers are leaving the state due to corruption such as this. And those teachers that are staying are leaving the teaching profession. It looks like the state legislature continues to disrespect and put teachers at the bottom of the barrel , when indeed it is because of teachers that the high school drop out rate has decreased! This disgust me!

  4. […] wait until then? Okay, check out Sarah Ovaska’s post on some very big raises over at DHHS. Lindsay Wagner also has a good story on our main site about a Robeson County private […]

  5. Kristin

    August 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    I’m a former PIO of a Council of State Agency and with 7 years of practical experience and a masters degree did not even approach what Mr. Diaz is currently making — and I was happy with my salary and considered myself as luckier than most state gov. PIOs. Sadly, I’m not shocked about this raise; I was shocked initially that such a young employee held such a high-profile position. I’m sure he’s working long hours, but a lot of the “news” I’ve seen come out of DHHS is campaign rhetoric, rather than the state government news worthy of actual news. I’ve also found a lot of his talking points and sound bytes a bit glib for my taste… maybe I’m just jealous of his big salary ;-)

  6. Kathy B

    August 14, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    It’s not jealousy, they are glib. It’s amazing, talk about cronyism!

  7. HunterC

    August 14, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    If DHHS was doing a good job at something, raises might be warranted.

    However, it’s clear DHHS is doing a horrible job in policy matters, and polling suggests communications from DHHS isn’t faring much better.

    Yet Wos rewards failure with raises.

    These case studies in DHHS failure should be on work plans to improve performance, not enjoying pay check increases.

  8. NCCaniac42

    August 14, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Cronyism at it worst.. this is absolutely the worst kind of ‘it isn’t what you know but who you know’ bullcrap that happens all the time. These young kids will continually get this kind of money in the future but actually aren’t worth the lowly teachers pay. This should be FRONT PAGE NEWS and on every evening news broadcast in NC.

    The GOP ran against this crap and yet.. they are doing it. The ‘DO AS I SAY not AS I DO’ BS.

  9. ML

    August 14, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    If we aren’t going to give raises to those who deserve it, we could have at least used the $160k in salary to entice someone with actual experience and expertise as opposed these two but then you’d have someone that might actual want to do their job instead of cater to the political establishment. I’m sure these two little kids have well connected parents within the political establishment.

  10. Mark

    August 14, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    Wow, their “bumps” in salaries are equal what I was making as a 24-year old in 2008. Still very close to it.

  11. Gene Hoglan

    August 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Well I’m sure they earned every last cent of those salaries, doing such yeoman’s work.

  12. WE

    August 14, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    With the Gov’s new personnel law revisions, we will see more of this. It is a slap in the face to teachers and more qualified state workers. AND it is just beginning. In 4 fours, there will be a massive amount infighting among state government employees. AND so much for customer service!

  13. Doug

    August 14, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    Sorry, got here a little late.

    Alan and ML….you guys must not pay attention to my posts very often. I am against cronyism no matter where it is taking place, it is the only government institution worse than a progressive or democrat in my book. It looks like Diaz is at least in the range of the prior occupant. The last question in the post…I do know of a gift the Asheville school system gave to the outgoing superintendent in the amount of $175,0000….but that goes on in a lot of school systems.

  14. Maggie Panther

    August 14, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    Really? Really? I’m a state employee who hasn’t had a raise in 5 years. I was told that it is “out of the question” due to DHHS policy. This does not make me feel like being a state employee for much longer.

  15. ML

    August 14, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Welcome back! Much Respect on one part doug, I think we can agree that our principal goal to rid ourselves of corruption in all forms in all colors(red and white for all those racists assuming I was talking about black and white).

    But as they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Accountability is our only power and that advantage is at the polls which is why the voter I’d bill should be given as much scrutiny and investigation as possible.

  16. ML

    August 14, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Sorry it was supposed to be: Red and blue* so that joke makes sense.

    PS always proof read

  17. Doug

    August 15, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Agreed, once the VID bill passes the judicial review process we should be able to continue on the path to remove the voter fraud corruption. The lawsuits are not looking good for your side though.


  18. GEC

    August 15, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Doug, honey…..there is no problem with “voter fraud corruption” in NC…..that is just Republican propaganda. There have been two (2) reports of voter fraud in NC from all the elections since 2000. Republicans don’t like women, blacks, gays, anyone from Central America or Mexico, anyone who is not Christian, anyone who doesn’t have 25 guns, or most importantly, anyone who can think for them self! There will not be many of them left soon!

  19. Judy

    August 15, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Unfathomable from a Department that cannot resolve major issues with NC FAST. Why hasn’t one of these boy geniuses gotten in front of that PR nightmare?

  20. NCCaniac42

    August 16, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Were these jobs even posted on the NC Jobs website? I thought all jobs for the state had to be posted. I would love to see the resumes of those that applied for the jobs.

  21. C Burgess

    August 16, 2013 at 10:03 am

    How young these men are to have done advanced studies, earned Doctorates, and volunteered in the trenches where those who need DHHS services are desperately needed!!! Wait…. they don’t have advanced degrees? They … just worked for election committees and PACs? How does that qualify them to have the depth of knowledge and experience the jobs they hold require? Perhaps they should work as entry level teachers for a few years to KNOW where DHHS is needed and what changes in policy (like salaries double those of real teachers) are most important.

    When we elected Governor McCrory, we thought he was a centrist. A wolf in sheeps clothing, I believe.

  22. Jan

    August 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    A 24 year chief policy maker? What kind of health care experience can he draw on to make any kind of health policy?

    What a slap in the face to state employees.

  23. rb

    August 20, 2013 at 11:04 am

    The article implies that these two gentlemen got raises. But isn’t it the case that they actually got new positions, and the salary that goes with it?

  24. rb

    August 20, 2013 at 11:19 am

    GEC, the statistics prove there is voter fraud…”Nearly five million more African-Americans voted in 2012 (17.8 million) than voted in 2000 (12.9 million). In both 2008 and 2012, black voters even exceeded their share of the eligible black voting age population. In 2012, blacks made up 12.5% of the eligible electorate but 13.4% of those voting.”


  25. yvette

    August 20, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    I think there is something seriously unethical about this entire thing. Clearly these 2 kids had something to do with his (McCrory’s) campaign. This guy needs to be thrown out of office immediately for ethical violations made left and right. First he gives raises to cabinet members right after he got into office, then makes cuts to unemployment, then teachers and state employees get shafted from any raises, but he gives two green kids fresh out of college raises?? This is raising too many red flags and something needs to be done to bring this maniac down.

  26. R

    August 21, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    When a person changes positions it often comes with a salary increase. I am a state employee and changed positions last year. This year I will be making a little over $29k more than I made in my old position a year ago. Why? The new position comes with more responsibility and required stronger credentials than the position I was in previously. Did anyone complain when President Obama started making the salary of POTUS instead of the salary of a senator?

  27. Kenneth Brown

    August 27, 2013 at 6:29 am

    26 yr state employee who voted for McCrory. I really thought things would change. It did, for the
    worse. It’s really sad to reach retirement and not even making top pay. Then you have these at the
    top making 50% to 95% above their salary range. Like Andy Griffith once said, When people like
    this leave this earth, they won’t leave like everyone else, they will just nasty away. And they always
    say they care about state employees. Yeah, Right.

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