McCrory slow to anger over DHHS mess

September 24, 2013 

Pat McCrory said he was going to run North Carolina’s state government like a business, but it’s proving to be a funny business.

Consider the situation at the Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos, a wealthy Republican fundraiser, contributed heavily to McCrory’s gubernatorial campaign and then took a state job that pays a token salary of $1 a year. You give big money to the boss to get a demanding job that pays $1? What kind of business is that?

Even stranger about this business is that no amount of managerial incompetence can get you fired. Wos arrived with virtually no experience in managing the operations she oversees, but she administers her department like an autocrat. She pushes top administrators out, hires unqualified former McCrory campaign staffers at high salaries and pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to consultants, including one on leave from her husband’s company.

And what’s the response from the executive suite? It’s not my job.

“I’m not going to get distracted into the detailed operations which my secretaries are responsible for making those hires,” McCrory said.

McCrory said that last Wednesday. Two days later, N.C. Policy Watch reported another fiasco: Wos paid her former chief of staff Tom Adams $37,227 in severance pay after he worked only one month at the agency. The payment came in addition to his month’s salary in the $155,000-a-year job.

On Monday came the announcement that state Medicaid Director Carol Steckel is leaving her $210,000-a-year job after only eight months. Wos had called Steckel’s hiring a coup when Steckel agreed to come to North Carolina from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. She was supposed to lead an overhaul of the North Carolina Medicaid system. When Steckel announced she was leaving for a job with a Florida health care company, Wos said she was surprised.

And so was the governor. But apparently the governor has not reached his threshold for unwelcome news coming from the state’s largest department. Or, perhaps, McCrory can’t say he has had enough of Wos’ mismanagement because he has already taken too much of her campaign contributions. Wos, her family and her husband’s business employees gave over $216,000 to help McCrory win his seat. That makes it hard to ask her to give up hers.

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