Under the Dome

Dome: Breakfast with McCrory a Republican affair so far

February 16, 2013 

Since the first week of the legislative session, Gov. Pat McCrory has invited 29 state lawmakers to breakfast at the mansion.

The roster includes powerful Republicans - House and Senate majority leaders and committee chairs - but not one Democrat, according to a list of names received by The News & Observer through a records request.

The 8 a.m. breakfasts have occurred twice a week so far, with a handful of lawmakers dining at a time.

The first Democrats won’t eat gubernatorial grits until next week. House Democratic leader Larry Hall and Reps. William Brisson and Craig Horn are invited Wednesday. Top Senate Democrats Martin Nesbitt and Dan Blue are invited the following morning, according to the guest list.

A McCrory spokeswoman refused to comment on the breakfasts and guest list.

Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican, went Wednesday for an All-American breakfast of two scrambled eggs, two slices of bacon, hash browns and fruit. “The food is good,” he said.

The conversation is a mix of informal get-to-know-you and policy discussions. “I think it is refreshing that we have a governor who is very active and engaged with legislators,” the nine-year veteran said. “It was an opportunity to both get to know the governor a little better and for the governor to get to know us.”

Dollar, a budget committee chairman, declined to share specifics about his conversation but he said each lawmaker had an “opportunity to talk, ask questions and pass along advice.”

“I thought the governor was ... very willing to listen and that’s what I appreciated the most,” he said.

After OT, Medicaid manager got raise

The Medicaid manager who made $237,500 in overtime over the last four years recently received a 25 percent raise.

Angie Sligh, the Medicaid Management Information System director, is now being paid an annual salary of $134,944, according to DHHS spokesman Brad Deen. State personnel records regularly obtained by The News & Observer show that her salary was listed as $107,944 on Jan. 11.

Sligh received the raise as the State Auditor was wrapping up an investigation into overtime payments of $580,000 to Health and Human Services employees who don’t normally qualify for overtime.

Most of the overtime went to managers and executive-level job-holders working on the new Medicaid billing system. Sligh, who leads the office working on the new system, received 40 percent of the overtime. There was no written authorization for the overtime payments.

The audit said that the overtime payments ended Jan. 31.

The Medicaid system has racked up huge cost overruns while running years behind schedule. The system was supposed to be working in mid-2011. The audit was one of several state audits in the last two years critical of DHHS computer systems and their management.

Sligh did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Deen, the spokesman, said the raise was approved within the department under the previous administration. Deen said he could not answer any other questions, including what role, if any, was played by Sligh’s boss, Assistant Secretary for Finance Dan Stewart, who retired last month.

Droz stands ground

John Droz takes issue with recent criticism of a presentation he made to lawmakers and others. The Morehead City man, who has a background in science, has helped shape state legislators’ view of the controversial issue of sea-level rise due to climate change. The thrust of his presentation was that special-interest groups are manipulating science for their own agendas, and that public policy is suffering as a result.

Liberal and environmental groups have mocked him for his position in opposition to the majority of scientists that global warming is real and the world’s use of carbon dioxide and methane play a big role in that. Droz says consensus doesn’t mean proof, and that the question remains unsettled.

Dome reported that the Institute for Southern Studies Facing South project’s criticized his presentation because of some of the source material, which included a number of fringe publications. Droz says it’s not fair to cherry-pick a handful of articles out of the hundreds of sources quoted in his presentation, just because someone might not agree with everything those publications print.

“If something is false or wrong, let’s hear what it was,” Droz said.

Staff writers Joe Neff, Lynn Bonner John Frank and Craig Jarvis

Send tips to dome@newsobserver.com.

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