Note: This post has been changed from its original form to reflect a correction. Scroll down for more information.
It’s hard to keep up with all the stories being written about the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the many questions being raised about the experience and pay for Secretary Aldona Wos’ recent hires.
Here’s the recap of stories that were flying around yesterday.
The big story of the week has been Wos’ hire of a relatively inexperienced former Tea Party activist to serve as an adviser, despite little background in health care and policy other than serving as a lecturer at East Carolina University in the late 1990s. (read more in this story from Raleigh TV station WRAL) Margaret “Mardy” Peal, who donated $1,250 to the McCrory campaign, has been out of the workforce for much of the last decade and was active in the Greenville area Tea Party gatherings and also is a past board member of the Carolina Pregnancy Center, an anti-abortion ministry group. She is joining the state agency as it prepares to make new rules for abortion clinics in the state.
She’ll make $95,000 a year, well above the $45,000 to $74,000 range the job normally has.
(Note: McCrory said Wednesday he wasn’t involved in Peal’s hiring.)
The News & Observer also reported Peal wrote on an Internet site that she wanted to move out of the United States in 2008 because of concerns about the country’s direction and a “socialized [healthcare] system in which folks who move outside the system are punished.”
Reporters had a chance to ask Republican Gov. Pat McCrory about the DHHS controversies Wednesday, and McCrory responded that he had full confidence in Wos and her leadership, and his only concern was that the media’s scrutiny of his hires would discourage people from joining his administration.
McCrory, according again to WRAL, said that: “I’m very concerned in hiring future people who want to come into state government for a temporary amount of time, the intrusion into their personal life by people, political operatives and others, that will distract people from wanting to be engaged in public service for a year or two. That’s my one concern about what I read this morning.”
The salaries of public employees are public, and both WRAL and the News & Observer reported they requested resume and job description information for Peal’s position and have not received it. From the N&O: “The News & Observer checked Peal’s background after DHHS refused to provide a job description, a list of her duties, or her resume. Government employee salaries and government contracts are public records.”
Then, the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate asked N.C. State Auditor Beth Wood, who is also a Democrat, to look into the hires and happenings at DHHS. Democrats in the legislature have previously asked for lawmakers to conduct an investigation into the hirings, as well as problems at DHHS that have led to people waiting months or weeks for emergency food stamps and health providers not receiving compensation for Medicaid services.
You can read Hall and Nesbitt’s most recent letter here.
Note: This post, in its original form, incorrectly stated that McCrory took issue with media access to public records like salary information.
McCrory spokesperson Ryan Tronovitch said Thursday that McCrory’s comments Wednesday weren’t about salary and hiring information being public information, but was worried that individuals may not take administration jobs because of reporters and others closely examining the personal and professional lives of recent hires.