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It’s been a week since we first reported on the $80,000 salaries that two 24-year-old former McCrory campaign workers are making in top jobs in the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Ricky Diaz, DHHS’ communication director, makes $85,000 a year after receiving a 37 percent pay increase in April when he transferred over from the governor’s press office. Matt McKillip serves as N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ chief policy officer and makes $87,500 after getting a $22,500 pay raise in April.

Source: DHHS employee newsletter

Source: DHHS employee newsletter

Their raises came a month after Gov. Pat McCrory had given state departments a directive to watch their expenses and freeze salary increases. On Friday, House Minority Leader Larry Hall, a Democrat, called on Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican, for a legislative investigation into the raises.

McCrory has defended his former campaign workers’ raises, telling reporters that the young staffers are qualified and were being paid the standard salaries for those positions.

“They got promotions,” McCrory told WNCN in an interview last week. “They were actually moved over to areas that frankly a lot of older people applied for, too. But frankly, these two young people are very well qualified and they are being paid for jobs at which that’s the pay rate for that job.”

DHHS chief policy advisor Matthew McKillip Source: LinkedIn

DHHS chief policy advisor Matthew McKillip
Source: LinkedIn

McKillip, as we reported here, was also involved with Wos’ much-criticized hire of Dianna Lightfoot to head the state’s early education and child development section. Lightfoot had advocated against pre-school educations in her past and had made controversial statements on social media.

Since last week, a lot of other media in the state have jumped in and pointed out other high salaries and multi-thousand dollar raises since McCrory took office.

Here’s a recap of some of what’s been reported.

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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.