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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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The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is trying to clean up the mess created when nearly 50,000 Medicaid cards with children’s personal health information was sent out to the wrong households.

The agency admitted that the mistaken mailings violated federal  medical privacy laws and were a result of human error.

HHS Secretary Aldona Wos informed the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about the release of private medical information.

Following press inquiries, the agency acknowledged  Friday evening the mailings went out to the wrong household, three days after DHHS staff first learned of the issues.

On Monday, Medicaid Interim Director Sandra Terrell released a statement indicating that after an initial review, the state agency believes human error was at fault while moving data from the N.C. Health Choice system to Medicaid.   Read More

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When the N.C. General Assembly passed a controversial overhaul to the state’s taxing system last year, the promise out of the mouths of Republican sponsors was that it would put more money back in taxpayers’ pockets.

But that’s not the case, the Associated Press found today in a factcheck its reporters conducted on the state’s new tax plan.

“It’s true that the state’s income tax rate is going down for every taxpayer in 2014,” the news agency wrote in an article published today. “But that does not mean all taxpayers will actually pay less to the state government over the coming year.”

That premise of lower tax bills, which has been echoed and repeated by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, was scrutinized closely at the time of the bill’s passage and debate, with many calling foul on the claims including Cedric Johnson of the N.C. Justice Center’s Budget and Tax Center.

BTC data on N.C. tax increases under new plan

BTC data on N.C. tax increases under new plan

Johnson, in a report published in August, estimated that the bottom 80 percent of North Carolina residents will pay more in taxes under the new tax plan while needed services were slashed and the wealthiest in the state would see reductions in their tax bill. (Disclosure: N.C. Policy Watch is also a part of the N.C. Justice Center.)

The Associated Press took another look this week at the changes to the state’s tax code for 2014 and agreed that the tax breaks promised by lawmakers would not materialize for many people in the state.

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A judge agreed with the state chapter of the NAACP today that the final Moral Monday protest of the year can be held on the grounds of the State Capitol.

The McCrory Administration had denied an earlier application to hold the protest there, instead offering up the Halifax Mall space behind the N.C. General Assembly in downtown Raleigh. The NAACP sought court intervention, arguing that the permit denial was violating the group’s First Amendment rights.

In a ruling in court this afternoon, just a few hours before the protest is scheduled to begin, Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour ruled the McCrory administration improperly denied the initial permit and ruled that the protest could be moved to the State Capitol grounds, according to WRAL.

For a detailed run-down of the court hearing and the legal issues at stake, read this story by WRAL’s Mark Binker.

In a tweet, the N.C. NAACP indicated the rally would begin at the Halifax Mall and then move to the Capitol grounds.

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Gov. Pat McCrory gave a pardon of innocence today to a man wrongly convicted of a 1988 slaying in Greensboro.

LaMonte Burton Armstrong, now 63 and living in Chapel Hill, had been released from prison in 2012 after a key witness recanted testimony that falsely linked Armstrong to the killing of Ernestine Compton, a professor at N.C. A & T.

The governor informed LaMonte Burton Armstrong of the pardon in a phone call today, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

McCrory’s pardon will mean Armstrong is eligible for compensation for the 16-plus years he spent in prison.

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