The hits just keep on coming from Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos and her embattled department that has become a source of almost daily embarrassment for the McCrory Administration.
The scandals are so numerous and have been so poorly handled by both HHS officials and McCrory’s own staff that whispers about the capability of this administration to effectively run state government have grown louder and are now a constant topic of conversation in Raleigh.
The News & Observer had the latest revelation Friday morning with a story that the department has paid a special adviser named Joe Hauck, on leave from the company run by Wos’ husband, $228,000 for roughly eight months of contract work. That’s right, $228,000 for eight months. Not bad.
The contract ends November 30, but don’t worry, it is capped at $310,000—or roughly ten times what a starting teacher makes in North Carolina. The News & Observer includes the reminder that Wos was a major fundraiser for McCrory’s campaign and that Hauck himself contributed $6,500.
Surely, there’s a good explanation for paying an “adviser” $300,000. HHS spokesperson Ricky Diaz said in an email response to the N&O reporter that Hauck came up with a plan to cut costs by $5 million without reducing the services the department provides.
That should be an interesting plan to see, but apparently we can’t see it, even though we paid for it. Diaz did not provide any details of the proposal to change the largest department in state government that affects the lives of millions of people in the state. It’s simply absurd.
The windfall of our money given to a business associate of Wos’ husband comes on the heels of the salary scandal involving Diaz himself and chief policy HHS adviser Matthew McKillip, both 24-year old former campaign workers who received huge raises last spring and now both make more than $80,000 a year.
McCrory has bristled when asked about the raises or the qualifications of the two young staffers for their well-compensated and high-ranking positions—McKillip has an English degree and no apparent background in health policy—and claimed that many qualified people applied the job, though press reports have raised serious doubts about that.
Then there’s Wos herself. She hired a woman to run the state’s early childhood programs who had founded a nonprofit that opposed public early childhood programs, not to mention her bizarre tweets in recent years, including using a homophobic slur about Hillary Clinton.
News accounts of Lightfoot’s past forced her to resign her post before her first day on the job, though Wos has never responded to questions about the episode.
Then there are Wos’ bizarre comments at a public meeting that State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin made the decision that the state would not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a decision actually made by the General Assembly and Governor McCrory. You would think the HHS secretary would understand that.
Wos has never explained that statement either and now apparently travels with bodyguards who on at least two occasions have blocked reporters from asking her questions.
And maybe most importantly, the department’s highly-touted new systems for processing Medicaid claims and delivering food stamps to eligible recipients have been plagued by glitches and delays that are causing major problems for scores of medical practices and thousands of low-income families without enough to eat.
There’s more but you get the idea. The department is disaster and an embarrassment. What does it say about the judgment of Governor McCrory that he seems to be the only person in the state who can’t see that?