“Salary-gate,” a week later

It’s been a week since we first reported on the $80,000 salaries that two 24-year-old former McCrory campaign workers are making in top jobs in the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Ricky Diaz, DHHS’ communication director, makes $85,000 a year after receiving a 37 percent pay increase in April when he transferred over from the governor’s press office. Matt McKillip serves as N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ chief policy officer and makes $87,500 after getting a $22,500 pay raise in April.

Source: DHHS employee newsletter

Source: DHHS employee newsletter

Their raises came a month after Gov. Pat McCrory had given state departments a directive to watch their expenses and freeze salary increases. On Friday, House Minority Leader Larry Hall, a Democrat, called on Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican, for a legislative investigation into the raises.

McCrory has defended his former campaign workers’ raises, telling reporters that the young staffers are qualified and were being paid the standard salaries for those positions.

“They got promotions,” McCrory told WNCN in an interview last week. “They were actually moved over to areas that frankly a lot of older people applied for, too. But frankly, these two young people are very well qualified and they are being paid for jobs at which that’s the pay rate for that job.”

DHHS chief policy advisor Matthew McKillip Source: LinkedIn

DHHS chief policy advisor Matthew McKillip
Source: LinkedIn

McKillip, as we reported here, was also involved with Wos’ much-criticized hire of Dianna Lightfoot to head the state’s early education and child development section. Lightfoot had advocated against pre-school educations in her past and had made controversial statements on social media.

Since last week, a lot of other media in the state have jumped in and pointed out other high salaries and multi-thousand dollar raises since McCrory took office.

Here’s a recap of some of what’s been reported.

From the Associated Press:

Crystal Feldman, a 27-year-old former congressional staffer and ex-spokeswoman for the California GOP, is paid $78,000 a year as the director of public affairs at the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

Ryan Minto, 28, who previously worked for Republicans U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, is paid $72,000 annually as the legislative liaison for the N.C. Department of Revenue.

Heather Lee Dickson, 29, makes $70,000 a year as the executive assistant to first lady Ann McCrory. She worked as a fundraiser for McCrory’s 2008 gubernatorial campaign before moving to the finance staff of the N.C. Republican Party.

Ryan Tronovitch, a 28-year-old deputy press secretary in McCrory’s office, makes $65,000 a year. He previously worked as a regional press secretary for the Republican National Committee.

Meredith McCullen, 26, who worked as McCrory’s scheduler during his gubernatorial campaign, makes $52,000 a year as an administrative assistant to the governor.

WRAL reported that there were others in addition to McKillip and Diaz without any health policy experience serving in top positions advising N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos on health policy. Jason Simmons, 35, makes $62,000 a year after a $22,500 April raise and serves as a DHHS policy advisor despite no clear background in health care.

The Raleigh TV station found that, “Simmons was a campaign operative for 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney before going to work for McCrory, but his available information also shows no educational background or experience in health policy.

State personnel records reviewed by N.C. Policy Watch also show that Wos’ administrative assistant, Kristy Craig, got a $12,000 raise in April and now makes $52,000 a year. Craig, 25, was hired in January.

DHHS’ longest-serving employee also happens to work as an office assistant, but is paid far less. The secretary has been working for the department for 52 years, and is classified as an “office assistant IV,” after starting in 1961, according to state personnel records. She makes $46,282 a year.

The McClatchy-owned newspapers the Charlotte Observer and the News & Observer host databases of state employee salary information that can be searched here and here.



  1. James Protzman

    August 23, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    You missed one in the Department of Commerce. And it’s a big one. A 28-year-old lawyer promoted to Deputy Dawg behind Decker … earning $110,000 … with no experience.


  2. Greg

    August 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    The Governor’s admin assistant makes $52K/year, but the first lady’s admin makes $70K? Is the First Lady’s administrator’s job really that much more difficult or demanding?

  3. Celia Rowland

    August 24, 2013 at 7:55 am

    How do you justify hiring someone with no health care or public health experience? Did the job postings have an experience requirement, say 3-5 years in health care or public health administration, plus a masters’ degree in public health administration? If there were “promotions” then the job openings had to have been posted publically for an application period. I would like to see The Progressive Pulse (or the N&O) lay their hands on the job descriptions for these DHHS positions and see how well the people actually fit with the job description.

  4. guest

    August 24, 2013 at 10:06 am

    There is so much wrong under Wos, it’s hard to choose what’s worst. Kristy Craig has a degree in political science and an impressive resume for her age including 2011 senior class president at NCSU. Matthew McKillip has a BA in English and… worked on McCrory’s campaign. But Craig is an office assistant and McKillip is chief policy advisor. Is this cronyism or sexism? Who is in charge of HR at DHHS?

  5. Frances Jenkins

    August 24, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    You could follow the Perdue/Easley model. Hire at a low salary, then have wealthy donors pay the supplement under the table. But I think you go to prison for that.

  6. Alan

    August 24, 2013 at 8:58 pm


    I think you need to look at the other blog regarding people going to jail. Didn’t see you (or Doogie, or LSD) comment there. I wonder why…


  7. Alan aka Captain America

    August 24, 2013 at 9:19 pm


    Good point, it’s only a matter of time before it catches up with them. An investigation into this I think would be appropriate. But don’t expect the Team Civitas members on this blog actually make any attempt to answer the points you raised.

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