Chris Fitzsimon NC Policy Watch
November 11, 2013
You have to hand it to DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos. She is steadfast in her resolve not to actually answer any questions about the scandals that have plagued her department since she took over or take any responsibility for them.
This week she told David Crabtree with WRAL-TV that the media was partly to blame for all the problems with computer systems rolled out to process Medicaid claims and food stamp payments.
Wos said that media coverage of the problems that have delayed reimbursements to hospitals and the delivery of food stamps to low-income families for months prompted a flood of calls from people who were concerned and the calls diverted the staff from their jobs.
Apparently the media needs to ignore the stories about hospitals not being paid millions of dollars for chemotherapy treatments or families heading to soup kitchens because their food stamps are weeks late.
Wos did not mention why the newly constituted 24-member marketing and public relations team couldn’t handle some of the calls.
The stories are just too much of a burden on the department, so stop it reporters, no more questions, no more stories. Please allow DHHS to keep the public’s business private. It is much easier for them that way.
And in that same vein, Wos also continued to refuse to explain why her former chief of staff received a $37,000 severance payment after leaving the department after just a month on the job. Or why she has paid an employee of her husband’s company more than $250,000 for eight months work on a personal services contract.
Or why former State Auditor Les Merritt is making more than $300,000 on a contract to serve as the CFO of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disability and Substance Abuse Services. Couldn’t we find a full employee for the job?
Or why her chief policy adviser is a 24-year-old with no health policy background who worked on Governor Pat McCrory’s campaign and is now making $87,000 a year?
There’s more but you get the idea. No answers from Wos and please stop asking. It is quite a distraction and makes it harder for DHHS officials to do their jobs that we are paying them to do that they don’t want to tell us about.
The embattled Secretary Wos did not just avoid answering questions and blame the media for the problems at her department this week, she also announced a new plan for mental health treatment aimed at helping people get the services they need and keeping them out of county jails and hospital emergency rooms.
That is certainly a worthy goal. But there were a few details missing. Here is the second sentence of the News & Observer story about Wos’ announcement.
“A new state-wide task initiative that was announced by Aldona Wos, the Department of Health and Human Services secretary, lacked specifics of how much it would cost, or how it will be paid for, or how it would be accomplished — problems that have plagued past mental health reform efforts”
Details, details. The media shouldn’t worry about such things. And remember, don’t ask any questions. It might generate a few phone calls from the public and we can’t have that.
McCrory’s disdain for the MLK Commission
Governor McCrory has been making a lot of appointments lately to boards and commissions and most of them garner little attention. But McCrory’s selections for the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission are raising some eyebrows—and more need to be raised.
McCrory’s appointment as chair of the commission is Clarence Henderson, who took part in the historic sit-ins at a Greensboro lunch counter that played a key role in the civil rights movement.
Henderson is now a conservative tea party activist that hangs out with the likes of Glenn Beck. His appointment prompted a story in the Winston-Salem Journal that included this reaction from Rep. Marcus Brandon, a African-American state House member.
“Mr. Henderson is representative of not even 10 percent of African-Americans,” Brandon said. “I’m not saying you need Al Sharpton, but you could appoint someone that African-Americans would listen to. (Henderson’s appointment) represents how much the governor is out of touch with the African-American community.”
Brandon is exactly right and that’s only half of it. The Journal article also listed McCrory’s other appointments and one of them is Dr. Troy Kickler of Cary.
Kickler works at the John Locke Foundation, part of the Art Pope empire in Raleigh. The Lockers have repeatedly included a call to abolish the MLK Commission in the budgets they recommend to state lawmakers.
Now McCrory has appointed Kickler to a commission that his organization doesn’t even believe should exist. I guess we now know how Governor McCrory really feels about the MLK Commission too.
Chris Fitzsimon is a columnist for North Carolina Policy Watch.