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McCrory donor, former ECU lecturer to advise DHHS leader

Posted September 17, 2013

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services

— A donor to Gov. Pat McCrory and former East Carolina University lecturer is the newest member of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos' senior advising staff.

Margaret "Mardy" Peal, 42, started with the department as a senior planner Aug. 12 and will make $95,000 a year, salary records show. She taught at ECU for about three years in the 1990s, was briefly involved in the early stages of the Eastern North Carolina Tea Party and donated $1,250 to McCrory's campaign in 2012.

Peal was also listed in 2010 under her married name, Grubb, as a member of the board of directors for the anti-abortion Carolina Pregnancy Center, which provides "abortion alternatives, post abortion support and abstinence education with the hope of transforming lives through Jesus Christ," according to its Facebook page.

The hire comes as the agency prepares to rewrite state rules governing access to abortion and grapple with massive Medicaid shortfalls. It also follows weeks of headlines about highly-paid staffers and contractors at the top of DHHS.

Director of Communications Ricky Diaz has not provided Peal's resume or job description, which WRAL News first requested Friday afternoon.

In a written statement forwarded through Diaz Monday, Director of Human Resources Mark Gogal said Peal is on the team working to reform Medicaid, known as the Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina.

“Some of the relevant highlights of [Mardy] Peal’s experience include having served on the faculty at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine and her experience in evidence-based medicine," Gogal wrote in the statement.

Diaz referred multiple follow-up questions about Peal's experience Monday and Tuesday to Gogal's statement.

Peal did not respond to email or phone messages Monday.

Wos' advisers

SENIOR PLANNERS
NameAgeHire dateSalary
Margaret Peal428/12/2013$95,000
Silas Mark Payne565/6/2013$144,000
David W. Oglesby624/9/2013$144,000
Matthew J. McKillip241/7/2013$87,500
Jessica L. Bradley3710/22/2012$105,000
PLANNERS
NameAgeHire dateSalary
Sherrie Settle508/9/2013$100,000
Pearl Burris Floyd574/22/2013$85,000
Jason D. Simmons351/28/2013$62,500
Source: Sept. 13 salary records,
Office of the State Controller

East Carolina confirmed that she holds a master's degree in health education. According to Interim Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Jim Mullen, Peal was employed full-time from August 1996 to December 1999 by the Department of Family Medicine, where she lectured on standardized patient care.

Aside from a 2000 paper on teaching practices coauthored during her time at the university, Peal has so far left a light digital footprint.

Her 2012 contributions to McCrory listed no employer. She did serve as director of development for the private Christ Covenant School during the 2012-13 academic year, according to Principal Soo Chang. While employed there, she worked to “market our school, present our school’s needs to a wide variety of constituents,” Chang said. She also served as a member of the school's board of directors in 2010-11.

Peal was also active in politics. In addition to her political donations, she appeared on a local radio show in 2010 to promote the formation of the Eastern North Carolina Tea Party, based out of Greenville.

"The first [mission] is to recruit a community of informed, involved and inspired citizens," Peal told radio hosts Tom Lamprecht and Sadie Klaus on April 29, 2010. "Then, we want to rebuild the free-market system through the tenets of limited government, and we want to restore the United States to the principles of its founding documents, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence."

Although she was briefly listed as a member of the group's "leadership team" on its website, Eastern N.C. Tea Party founder and director Karen Kozel said Peal attended only a few early "brainstorming" meetings and appeared as a visiting speaker at a gathering in 2010.

"She's always been politically and socially conservative and a strong Christian," Kozel said Tuesday.

Another August DHHS hire, planner Sherrie Settle, will make $100,000 a year. Currently listed on LinkedIn as the department's associate director for contracts, grants and compliance, she spent more than 15 years in various roles at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after obtaining master's degrees in health administration and business administration.

The department's current leaders say the hires at DHHS are an attempt to combat major problems inherited from its formerly Democratic administration. Those issues include a severely understaffed audit department, a lack of oversight over finances and IT projects and an inability to communicate with a third of the staff who did not have email accounts.

Diaz has said Wos is already making progress.

"She had to very quickly bring in experts," Diaz told WRAL News last week, "and we're very proud of the fact that, overall, DHHS' base payroll is $23 million less than it was one year ago."

But these explanations have not been enough for some Democratic lawmakers. Last week, the Legislative Black Caucus sent a letter to McCrory and Wos demanding answers to a list of 30 questions about everything from hires to food stamp delays.

House Minority Leader Larry Hall also called for a legislative investigation into Wos' salary decisions.

132 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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  • msmith2087 Sep 20, 1:00 p.m.

    President of NC Partnership for Children, under Health and Human Services, Stephanie Fanjul salary last year was $ 173,000. Exempt state position hired under Democratic Governor Hunt. Higher than Sectaries of HHS and Governors. Not reported by media. Smart Start, Fanjul donating more than $25,000 exclusively to Democratic candidates and causes in 2011. Fanjul fired 6 employees hired under previous Republican Governors to hire 6 Democratic Patronage workers in pay grades of 70 regular consultant positions. I approve of early childhood care programs. But not of her management or excessive salary. Corruption of Fanjul and Dean Debnam her husband. Debnam President of PPP, Public Policy Polling presented only one poll for public opinion, Smart Start Program budget cuts. Is there a conflict of interest at Public Policy Polling. Questions were not asked to support reforming early childhood care programs to make them more accountable and cost effective.

  • monami Sep 19, 11:27 a.m.

    "I'm sure that a lot of us have worked for companies that brought in a manager that didn't necessarily know the business, but had good managerial skills. I know I have. It is possible that this person has a great ability to manage, but needs to learn the business. "

    I understand what you're saying, but she does not appear to have managerial (people or project) business experience with bottom-line accountability.

  • J-Hol Sep 19, 8:55 a.m.

    Dear Pat: I have no real government/leadership experience either, but I do like money and I'm willing to pay into your future campaign. Can you please make up a new position for me? Maybe like "Vice-Governor" or something? I'm not greedy -- $100,000 per year would be fine.

  • corey3rd2 Sep 18, 11:30 p.m.

    I guess in your mind too UPS, Time Warner, IBM, Walgreens and what will be countless companies have all just turned "heartless" and it has nothing to do with obamacare that even dems and unions want changed, delayed or removed. Pirate01"

    Yes. They have become heartless. IBM used to have a "no layoffs" policy. They were all about their employees and their families. Now look at that place. It's no longer a land of innovation because they're run like mercenary operation. Time Warner? The company that was fooled into being bought by AOL for a handful of magic beans? Walgreens? That place is like a 7-11 with pills. The whole system is now set up to destroy retirees from these various companies. Even more companies have done their best to fake bankruptcy so they can cancel pension plans and the guys at the top get to keep the money. This is what happens when the new CEO has no clue what those old people ever did for their company.

  • silkesmom Sep 18, 9:23 p.m.

    McCrory's team needs to do a better job of vetting his political cronies. This person seems to be a very poor choice.

  • exteacher Sep 18, 9:22 p.m.

    Some here don't get the increase in Political appointees going from 400 to 1500!!

    The idea is to completely politicize the entire state government so that even if they lose the next election the entire state govt will STILL BE REPUBLICAN AND IMPOSSIBLE TO CHANGE FOR GENERATIONS!!

    teleman60
    No, this is incorrect. Those 1500 political jobs are filled by people who serve at the will of the governor. They can be fired at any time for no reason whatsoever. You may rest assured they will ALL be fired when McCrony is voted out of office in 2016.

  • thomasew52 Sep 18, 8:24 p.m.

    I'm sure that a lot of us have worked for companies that brought in a manager that didn't necessarily know the business, but had good managerial skills. I know I have. It is possible that this person has a great ability to manage, but needs to learn the business. This is not unusual. The people that are on here being critical of her, and the governor don't have all the facts, but are quick to judge, and criticize. I bet if the shoe was on the other foot there would be plenty of room for grace. It is amazing how people jump to judgement of others without having all the information. I would be willing to bet a lot of people on this board are in that number.

  • Honesty first Sep 18, 8:00 p.m.

    Monami is 100% correct.

  • Honesty first Sep 18, 7:57 p.m.

    Can you add one more column to you list WRAL. Please show the amount that was given to the McCrory campaign by each name. The would be interesting I am sure!

  • Kaitlyn Sep 18, 7:53 p.m.

    "She had to very quickly bring in experts," Diaz told WRAL News last week, "and we're very proud of the fact that, overall, DHHS' base payroll is $23 million less than it was one year ago."

    Yes, Mr. BA in English with zero experience. It's easy to save $23M in salaries when you don't allow all those vacant positions in your department to be filled, isn't it? How is that working out for all the citizens who are being kept from getting the benefits they need. You know, the ones you are LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR.

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