Gov. 'McFrankly' gets it wrong on salaries

August 29, 2013 

Matthew McKillip and Ricky Diaz are going to be hits at their next high school reunions. Not many 24-year-olds, after all, are making $87,500 and $85,000, respectively, working for a department in state government. Come to think of it, they stack up pretty impressively, salary-wise, against a lot of veteran employees in the state Department of Health and Human Services.

A couple of whiz kids? Founded Facebook and then decided to give their lives to public service? Created a couple of patents and decided not to kick back and retire but to devote themselves to the state of North Carolina?

Well, not exactly. McKillip and Diaz may be perfectly nice fellows (neither they nor the governor are talking much to The N&O these days), but their salaries justifiably raise some eyebrows elsewhere in state government, not to mention in public education, which has been starved by the Republican-led General Assembly. And then there were Gov. Pat McCrory’s admonitions about tightening up in state government, making it easier to fire people so there weren’t a lot of – the governor’s words – "seat warmers" left around.

But McKillip and Diaz, former McCrory campaign workers, got huge raises after only a few months in the administration, and they’re now working in DHHS. McCrory continues to defend their pay.

“They were actually moved over to areas that, frankly, a lot of older people applied for, too,” he said to a television station recently. “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.”

We may dub the governor “Gov. McFrankly” because he used “frankly” a couple of times there while he was in the process of getting his facts wrong.

DHHS, according to a report from the Associated Press, can produce no evidence that the jobs were advertised and that there was any competition from “older people” or anyone else.

An AP review of state government job descriptions made it clear that the duties that McKillip and Diaz are expected to perform are rewarded at a far lower standard of pay elsewhere in state government. Wrong again, Gov. McFrankly.

But that doesn’t really matter, because the jobs these former campaign workers have are among those positions exempted from the standard rules of hiring and compensation, something that McCrory apparently has used to his full advantage in setting the figures for the taxpayer-funded salaries McKillip and Diaz now are receiving.

It’s not at all unusual for campaign workers to be rewarded with government jobs when their man or woman wins. But McCrory, or his advisers, have apparently taken the reward to a whole new level. And that’s even as they have preached austerity elsewhere in state government.

The least the governor could do is shoot straight about it rather than try to explain it away while getting his facts wrong and, frankly, insulting the intelligence of the public.

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