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Joe Hauck Source: LinkedIn

Joe Hauck
Source: LinkedIn

The Associated Press had this report over the weekend about the slim amount of work product taxpayers received in exchange for $310,000 paid to a contractor with personal connections to N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos.

Joe Hauck, who has since returned to his previous job working for a company owned by Wos’ husband, was one of several controversial expensive hires and personal services contracts Wos, a Greensboro physician and Republican fundraiser, used to build her executive team.

In the year Wos has led DHHS, several of her top hires have departed, including then-24-year-old McCrory campaign worker Ricky Diaz who earned $85,000 a year as  Wos’ communications director, and Carol Steckel, who worked as the state’s Medicaid director for eight months before leaving her $210,000-a-year job. Wos’ former chief-of-staff Thomas Adams received a $37,000 settlement payment after spending just a month on the job, despite state hiring practices that bar severance packages in such situations.

NC HHS Sec. Aldona Wos

NC HHS Sec. Aldona Wos

AP reporter Michael Biesecker first requested records related to Hauck in September and recently received a pair of memorandums from the agency no longer than three double-spaced pages as evidence of the 11 months Hauck spent working at the state agency.

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DHHS-Aldona-Wos-2014-01-14

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.

 

The state Medicaid system, and its very troubled billing system called N.C. Tracks, is the topic of a much anticipated legislative oversight committee hearing happening this morning. You can watch here, through a live stream offered by Raleigh TV station WRAL.

Also check out this story today from. N.C. Health News that found McCrory administration appointees at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services removed explanations behind cost overruns in the state’s Medicaid system and other findings from a critical audit released in late January

That audit has been held up by Gov. Pat McCrory and DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos as a reason to open up the state’s $13 billion Medicaid program to private managed care companies.  Staff in place during the end of former Gov. Bev Perdue’s administration had responded to draft versions of the audit with explanations that many of the cost overruns were due to impractical funding levels set by the state legislature, and that the overhead cost comparisons to

From the N.C. Health News article:

Soon after taking control in Raleigh in early 2013, people hired by Gov. Pat McCrory to run the Department of Health and Human Services made strategic edits to the departmental response to State Auditor Beth Wood’s audit of the North Carolina Medicaid program.

Documents obtained by North Carolina Health News through a public records request show that in January, incoming Sec. Aldona Wos and Medicaid head Carol Steckel eliminated detailed explanations of alleged high administrative costs, management problems and budget overruns in past years.

The resulting document accepts the criticism in Wood’s assessment wholesale and paints the health care program that covers 1.6 million North Carolinians as “broken.”

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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.

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

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.”

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Yesterday, we posted this piece about two young staffers at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services who received $22,500 and $23,000 raises after working just a few months in state government.

Gov. McCrory

Gov. McCrory

Matthew McKillip, DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos’ chief policy officer, is now making $87,500 (a 35 percent bump in pay) and Ricky Diaz, the DHHS communications director, earns $85,000 a year after a 37 percent pay increase.

Both are 24 and worked on McCrory’s campaign and transition teams before coming to DHHS. Click here to read the original post.

We called McCrory’s office for a response and were told today the governor’s office wouldn’t be commenting.

UPDATE: It appears McCrory did speak with WNCN, a Raleigh TV news station on Thursday afternoon. He defended the raises as the results of promotions, and said he’d like to give teachers raises too.

From their article:

“[Diaz] was in my office as a communications person, working as a lower level communications person in the governor’s office,” McCrory said Thursday. “My Health and Human Services Secretary [Aldona Wos] was so impressed with him, she wanted him to move to Health and Human Services and head up that whole process.”

The 35 and 37 percent pay increases come at a time when most other state employees, like public school teachers, received no raise at all in the state’s new two-year budget.

When pressed on the issue of teacher pay, he added, “I want teachers to make a lot more. I want teachers to make what TV anchors get paid too.”

McCrory instructed state departments to freeze pay increases in a March memorandum, citing a Medicaid shortfall as the reason why state agencies needed to be conservative with their spending. He did propose a 1 percent pay increase for state workers in his budget, but lawmakers opted not to include that in the final budget.

“It is time to solve this mess, not kick the can down the road and manipulate the budget as was done in the past,” McCrory was quoted as saying in a March 8 press release from his office. “It stops now.”

The press release went on to describe how McCrory “directed state agencies to hold salary increases, limit purchases and reduce travel to cover the state’s Medicaid liabilities.”

Calls placed to Diaz yesterday morning seeking comment about the raises have not been returned.

PhC_181_McCrory_ElectionNite_CharlotteObs

Gov. McCrory on election night. Ricky Diaz is to the right of his shoulder, and Matt McKillip is on the far right, with a blue lanyard. Source: Charlotte Observer photo donated to the. N.C State Archives

Link to photo here.