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Raleigh’s News & Observer doesn’t pull many punches with this morning’s scathing editorial about the state Department of Health and Human Services and its embattled leader, Secretary Aldona Wos. As the piece points out, Wos is simply over-matched:

“The secretary, who prior to her appointment had never done anything close to supervising a state department with over 17,000 employees, seems simply overwhelmed and underqualified for the job. Gov. Pat McCrory, well aware of Wos’s mega-fundraising for Republicans, continues to stand by his ill-advised appointment, digging in against calls for Wos to resign even as the problems at DHHS have multiplied… Read More

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The head of the embattled N.C. Department of Health and Human Services will appear before legislators this morning to answer more questions about the agency’s most recent mishaps.

Aldona Wos, a Greensboro physician and wealthy Republican fundraiser, is expected to address the mailing of nearly 49,000 children’s Medicaid cards with private medical information to the wrong addresses as well as the recent disclosure that the U.S. Department of Agriculture may penalize the state for the bungled food stamps delivery program.

Gov. Pat McCrory has reiterated his support for Wos, telling media that Wos took over a department that had been in disarray under Democrats.

DHHS records show that the agency’s backlog has seen an uptick, with more than 30,000 households in December unable to access their food stamps vouchers.

Audio from today’s 10 a.m. hearing can be heard here, or Raleigh television station WRAL will live-stream today’s meeting here.

You can also follow me, Sarah Ovaska, on Twitter at @SarahOvaska.

 

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We first reported Thursday on U.S. Department of Agriculture’s warning that it may yank or suspend some of the funding North Carolina receives to distribute food stamps.

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

The agency wrote a previously-undisclosed letter (click here) in December to Health and Human Services Secretary Wos in December telling her the continual delay of food stamps was “unacceptable” and a “serious failure.” The federal agency has “grave concern for the low income people of North Carolina.”

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Ricky Diaz, the young former McCrory campaign staffer, is leaving his position as head of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ communications director.

Source: DHHS employee newsletter

Source: DHHS employee newsletter

Diaz received a $22,500 raise when he went to work for the state agency after leaving the governor’s press office and the 24-year-old’s $85,000 salary (which was first reported by N.C .Policy Watch) and questions about his qualifications became a frequent topic of criticism lodged at the McCrory administration.

The agency has been in the media spotlight frequently this year with the botched launches of two public benefits systems, NC TRACKS and NC FAST, which led to major delays in payment for Medicaid services and prevented many from receiving their federally-funded food stamps.

He is leaving to work for a private Washington, D.C.-based political consultanting firm FP1, and a press release from the agency says he will join the small firm as a vice-president in February.

“FP1 has assembled a strong team of some of the most talented and accomplished operatives in politics, and I am excited to join such a distinguished firm,” Diaz is quoted as saying in the FP1 press release.  “I look forward to working with the team to help develop winning ad campaigns for FP1?s clients.”

His resignation comes as DHHS deals with another public relations mishap, after nearly 50,000 Medicaid cards with the private medical information of children were sent to the wrong households.

Gov. Pat McCrory on his election night. Ricky Diaz is to the right of McCrory's shoulder, and Matthew McKillip in on the far right of the photo. Source: N.C. State Archives, Flickr photo stream

Gov. Pat McCrory on his election night. Ricky Diaz is to the right of McCrory’s shoulder, and Matthew McKillip in on the far right of the photo.
Source: N.C. State Archives, Flickr photo stream

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DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

The News & Observer’s Joseph Neff had this story over the weekend about several of the high-dollar personal contracts being awarded to administrators in the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The agency failed to produce justification memorandums for several contracts given to top administrators in DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos’ agency despite an agency requirement to do so.

From the story:

In most major departments in state government, officials must explain in writing when they want to hire an individual with a contract for services.

But at the Department of Health and Human Services, where Secretary Aldona Wos has awarded at least seven such deals, those rules are not being followed in most cases.

Wos, an appointee of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, has awarded a number of high-dollar contracts, including one worth $312,000 a year to former State Auditor Les Merritt and another worth $310,000 to a vice president from the company owned by Wos’ husband. But in both of those cases, and in at least four others, the department says it can’t locate any memos written to justify the contracts.

Department policy requires a justification memo for sole-source and personal-services contracts. Under state law, the documents would be public records.

“No justification memorandum was located by agency personnel,” DHHS attorney Kevin Howell wrote in response to a public records request.

Read the entire story here.