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mccrory1106It’s hard to say yet whether this will become “Salarygate” Part Deux or Trois but whatever you call it, Gov. McCrory seems to have taken  another remarkably tin-eared step today with his special announcement that more than 3,200 state employees in “high-demand” fields will get pay raises out of a “salary adjustment fund.” 

Sorry to tell you Governor, but there are a hell of a lot of other hard-working state employees out there who are in “high demand” — high demand from the mushrooming number of students they teach each day, the fast-growing number of potholes they fill, bathrooms they clean and prison inmates and mental health clients they supervise and serve.

The Guv may claim that these raises are a response to “market forces” but as we found out from the public’s overwhelming reaction to the original Salarygate, at some point common sense ought to trump the “genius” of the market. Unfortunately, this appears to be yet another in a long list of incidents in which the McCrory team is demonstrating that it possesses very little of this precious commodity.

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Aldona Wos

NCHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

Can’t keep up or remember all the headline-grabbing goofs over the last year at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services?

WRAL reporter Mark Binker compiled a chronological list here.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services under Secretary Aldona Wos has rarely gone a few weeks this year without contending with some major crisis or controversy.

Here’s a snippet of some of the problems, though it’s worth clicking on the WRAL link to refresh your memory of just what’s gone sour at the state agency over the last year.

From WRAL:

Sept. 2013: Chief of staff paid $37,000 “severance”

The Department of Health and Human Services paid Thomas L. Adams $37,227.25 as “severance” after he served just one month as chief of staff at the department. Adams’ severance payment stood out because he occupied an exempt position, meaning he could be hired and fired at will with little notice and no need for the state to give cause and no appeal rights. The settlement was in addition to $14,000 in salary he earned over a short tenure.

And

Oct. 2013: State closes off WIC benefits for women and children as questions rise about whether the move was necessary Questions remain on WIC closure

Dysfunction in Washington came to North Carolina as the partial federal government shutdown stemmed the flow of tax dollars to North Carolina. The Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, nutrition program was one of the hardest hit by the shutdown. North Carolina announced it would stop processing applications due to the shutdown. But the federal government raised questions about that response, saying that the state should have had a reserve to allow them to carry on work through the shutdown period. Question intensified because WIC programs in other states continued operating.

And, most recently:

Jan. 2014: Doctors sue over Medicaid billing problems

North Carolina’s Medicaid billing system has been so dysfunctional that it costs doctors time, money and patients, according to a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of medical providers in early January 2014. The suit alleges the state Department of Health and Human Services and some of its computer services providers were negligent in developing and implementing a new Medicaid claims billing system, known as NCTracks. Doctors from Cumberland, Nash, New Hanover, Robeson and Wake counties are part of the suit and claim “NCTracks has been a disaster, inflicting millions of dollars in damages upon North Carolina’s Medicaid providers.”

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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.
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A state environmental agency spokesman said a recent political appointment to head a water quality conservation program is qualified because he served on the Apex town council during a drought.

Bryan Gossage, who was hired Nov. 4 by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources listed as the executive director of the Clean Water Trust Management Fund, despite only have run small communications and public relations firms in the past.

On Tuesday evening, DENR spokesman Drew Elliot indicated in an email that Gossage’s environmental conservation experiences stems from serving on the Apex town council for eight years, including during a drought.

Bryan Gossage, right, with Gov. Pat McCrory. Source: Gossage's LinkedIn page.

Bryan Gossage, right, with Gov. Pat McCrory. Source: Gossage’s LinkedIn page.

“He provided oversight of town water management and conservation efforts, including conservation efforts during the drought of 2007-2008, the worst drought in the recorded history of the region,” Elliot wrote in an email to N.C. Policy Watch.

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