Sweet deal for NC DHHS adviser

September 6, 2013 

Aldona Wos is constantly praised by Gov. Pat McCrory for putting in long hours as secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services at the $1-a-year salary she requested. But others helping the secretary are receiving considerably more, and some of them aren’t even state employees.

Remember candidate McCrory talking about using a businesslike approach to government, finding efficiencies, saving money out of that bloated old bureaucracy, fixing “broken” government? Well, apparently the governor’s people are twisting the old business adage of “You have to spend money to make money.” Their version is, “You have to spend money to save money.”

It seems the state has paid Joe Hauck, a vice president of New Breed Logistics – where Wos’ husband, Louis DeJoy, is CEO – over $228,000 for eight months of work as a consultant to Wos. He’s advising on organization, apparently, and his contract has been extended a couple of times and is capped at $310,000.

Ricky Diaz, a 24-year-old McCrory campaign veteran who’s now making $85,000 as an aide to Wos, defended the Hauck deal and talked about the adviser as if he were a combination of Warren Buffett and Lee Iacocca. Diaz said one Hauck plan had saved the state $5 million, though Diaz didn’t say what the plan was.

Les Merritt, a former Republican state auditor, was paid more than $58,000 as a contractor for Wos in June and July. The agency said Merritt was helping the mental health division.

Some of McCrory’s Cabinet members are inexperienced in state government and perhaps unaware of the need to be prudent with the public purse, particularly when, say, a new Republican governor has criticized predecessors as wasteful spenders.

But this deal is ridiculous and on appearances alone looks very bad. Wos should have known better than to sign one of her husband’s employees to a high-dollar consulting contract.

Oh, and remember how McCrory and other Republicans criticized the pay-to-play culture of Democrats, who used their power to raise money and rewarded their cronies? The GOP was mighty strong on that during recent campaigns.

It seems Hauck, in 2011 and 2012, was among New Breed employees who kicked in for Pat McCrory. In Hauck’s case, the amount was $6,500.

What is needed immediately are legislative hearings on the running of DHHS, its personnel decisions, the handling of state contracts and the administration of the Medicaid program and on whether there is a problem with employee turnover, among other issues. The state auditor also needs to thoroughly examine the department, which has more than 16,000 employees. Those employees provide or supervise assistance related to Medicaid and other services.

DHHS must maintain the confidence of those it serves and that of taxpayers. A consulting contract such as this, considered in the context of other uproars in the agency, might well cause a loss of that confidence.

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