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The director of the N.C. Health and Human Services’ troubled public benefits technology and food stamp system is leaving his state position for a job in private industry.

Anthony Vellucci, the program director for N.C. FAST (Families Accessing Services Through Technology) is leaving for a job in private industry, according to a DHHS news release sent out late Wednesday afternoon.

He is taking a position with Maryland-based EngagePoint, a private healthcare and IT software company, and his last day with DHHS is March 7.

Vellucci, 40, was making $168,000 a year, including a $23,384 raise he received from Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos in June in order to counter a job offer. Vellucci’s raise was one of several $20,000-plus raises for top DHHS officials after N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory called for a salary freeze for state workers.

NC FAST has encountered significant issues over the last year, and the months-long delays for food stamps for thousands of struggling North Carolinians led the U.S. Department of Agriculture to threaten withdrawing administrative funding from the state. (Click here for more information about the backlog.)

The state agency had just met a Feb. 10 deadline set by USDA to resolve the backlog of thousands of high-priority food stamps cases, and is facing another deadline on March 31 to reduce the remaining backlog of cases.

Vellucci first came to DHHS in 2010, during Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s administration.

Angela Taylor, a DHHS employee since 1995 who joined the NC FAST team in August, will take over as NC FAST’s interim director.

 

Dianna Lightfoot, who resigned before taking a job as the head of the state’s early education and child development division, saw media interest in her online commentary as attacks, according to emails released as part of a public records request.

“Just got a call saying someone had found a Tweet where I termed Hillary Clinton butch,” Lightfoot wrote in a Feb. 6 email to Matthew McKillip, a DHHS policy advisor. “Guess they’re really after me.”

That phone call Lightfoot referenced appears to have been from N.C. Policy Watch, which published this post about one of the more controversial comments Lightfoot made online. Lightfoot, who headed a group that questioned the value of early education, was the subject of several media  stories after the Feb. 5 announcement of her hire. She took down her Twitter feed shortly after the press inquiries.

Dianna Lightfoot

Dianna Lightfoot

McKillip, who worked for Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign before joining DHHS, and Lightfoot exchanged several emails about Lightfoot’s appointment by DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos, both before and after Lightfoot’s position on early education and Twitter posts attracted media attention.

“You may already know that I’ve been appointed DHHS Director of Child Development and Education,” Lightfoot wrote in a Feb. 2 email to McKillip. “Thanks for your help!”

“Yes! Congratulations! I’m glad it’s official!,” McKillip wrote back a few hours later. “Look forward to having you on board!”

The emails were released Monday as part of a Feb. 8 public records request N.C. Policy Watch and several other media organizations made about Lightfoot’s appointment and subsequent resignation.

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Dianna Lightfoot is facing more questions, after a Winston-Salem news outlet discovered she’d registered to vote using an address of a UPS store.

Dianna Lightfoot

Dianna Lightfoot

Lightfoot, 61, of Winston-Salem, resigned yesterday morning after being appointed two days earlier by new N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos to heading the state’s pre-K and child development division. Lightfoot’s resignation (more about that here) came after comments and positions she’d taken  criticizing government-run early education programs and Tea Party-related causes surfaced. Those comments included a comment from her now-deactivated Twitter account in which she referred to women appointed in the Obama Administration as a “butch bunch.” Lightfoot Tweet

The news about the voter registration issues was first reported Thursday morning by the Camel City Dispatch, a relatively new independent, non-profit news website in Winston-Salem that found Lightfoot registered to vote in the spring of 2012 using the address of a UPS store at 353 Jonestown Road, a UPS store where Lightfoot has an address. State elections law requires that individuals use their residential, and not mailing address, when registering to vote.

Providing false or misleading information on a voter registration form can lead to a lower-level felony charge.

The news was later picked by the Winston-Salem Journal, which ran a story today that included an interview from Lightfoot’s mother who said Lightfoot had been devastated by the intense media attention this week.

DHHS has not chosen a successor to Lightfoot.

UPDATE (added since original publication): Robert Coffman, the director of elections in Forsyth County, said he will refer to matter to his three-member board, who can then ask for the state board of elections to look into the matter, or the local district attorney. Prosecution over voter registration address matters are rare, he added, and his office is waiting to see if the voter, Lightfoot, contacts them to change her voter registration to her residential address. That hasn’t happened yet.

Dianna Lightfoot’s tenure with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services was short-lived, without her ever having a first day on the job.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services released a statement Thursday that Lightfoot will not take over at the head of the state’s early education and child development division.

Dianna Lightfoot

Dianna Lightfoot

Lightfoot, of Winston-Salem, had been the president of the National Physicians Center for Family Resources since 2001, a pro-abstinence organization that took the position that early education for low-income children could create dependence on government programs for young children.

She also was outspoken on her personal Twitter account where she tweeted several anti-gay comments, including a July 2011 tweet where Lightfoot called former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “butch.” (Click here for our previous post.)

DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos appointed Lightfoot to head the state’s child development and early education division on Tuesday, calling Lightfoot a “strategic and tactical top tier executive with extensive health care, child welfare and education expertise.”

Below is the release from DHHS about Lightfoot’s resignation:

Dianna Lightfoot was scheduled to start at HHS next week as Director of Child Development and Early Education.  Ms. Lightfoot informed Secretary Wos this morning that she does not wish to be a distraction to the department and will pursue other opportunities.  Secretary Wos accepted this decision.

UPDATE: Dianna Lightfoot resigned on Thursday morning, two days after appointment. Read more here.

The state’s new head of early education programs referred to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “butch” in a Twitter post about female members of the Obama Administration.

Dianna Lightfoot, under the Twitter handle @chinalight44, sent the tweet in July 2011 in response to another Twitter user who was critical of GOP politicians U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Lightfoot volunteered as an adviser for Bachmann’s presidential campaign, according to Lightfoot’s LinkedIn page.

“Between hillary and the other butch bunch obama anointed (sic) it’s great to finally see 2 with intelligence depth and femininity,” Lightfoot tweeted.

“Butch” is a term that can be used in a derogatory sense against lesbian women.

Lightfoot Tweet

Lightfoot did not respond to two calls for comment left on her cell phone this afternoon.

The Twitter profile for Lightfoot identifies her as a “Public Policy Executive; recruits, organizes, manages medical and child welfare experts to respond to policy and legislation. NC and CA.”

Lightfoot has also served as the president since 2001 of the National Physicans Center for Family Resources, a small non-profit that had less than $20,000 in funding last year and has lobbied nationally on abstinence and early education issues. Her new DHHS position puts her in charge of the state’s SmartStart program, which is recognized nationally for its work helping low-income families.

“Encouraging parents to entrust their children to an institution may result in some being less responsible and reliable,” wrote Lightfoot and two doctors in the National Physicians Center policy argument against early-childhood education.  “In the long run, there is great potential for early learning institutions to foster more dependency on the government (i.e. taxpayer) and more of an entitlement mentality.

The group’s policy page, which advocates children being taught in the home in their early years, also cited a 1997 poll from the fashion magazine Glamour stating that 88 percent of women would work from home if they could afford it.

She’s scheduled to begin work next Monday with an annual salary of $110,000.

Update: Lightfoot’s Twitter account was deactivated shortly after this post was published.

UPDATE 2: DHHS spokeswoman Julie Henry released this statement Wednesday evening regarding Lightfoot:

“Ms. Lightfoot was selected for this position because she has extensive expertise in healthcare, child welfare and education.  The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is committed to outcomes-based, effective and quality early childhood programs and Ms. Lightfoot will work closely with the Secretary to carry out the department’s mission to protect the health and well being of all people, especially young children.”