Raleigh, N.C. — A liberal advocacy group on Wednesday called on lawmakers to investigate hefty raises given to former campaign staffers of Gov. Pat McCrory who now work for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Progress North Carolina also presented petitions signed by more than 19,000 people to DHHS, demanding that the raises be rescinded until North Carolina public school teachers also get raises.
"Pat McCrory bashes Medicaid every chance he can to explain why he didn't give raises to teachers. The very agency that is managing Medicaid is doling out hundreds of raises. This is crazy – complete hypocrisy," said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC.
WRAL News found 280 full-time workers at DHHS who have received raises totaling $1.7 million since the governor's directive. Also, some of those receiving raises have no career or educational experience for the jobs they hold. The information on state salaries comes from BEACON, the state government payroll system.
Two former members of McCrory's 2012 gubernatorial campaign staff now work at DHHS, as does a former staffer of Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign.
Matthew McKillip and Jason Simmons were hired as senior policy advisers, although neither appears to have any experience in health policy. They each received a raise of $22,500 in April. Agency spokesman Ricky Diaz got a $23,000 raise.
DHHS officials have refused to provide job descriptions for McKillip and Simmons and have declined to speak to the qualifications of any of the three with regard to the jobs they hold, saying only that all three are capably handling their duties and that the raises account for a tiny fraction of the agency's budget.
“Our goal is to reduce costs, drive efficiency and improve services, and I am very pleased that the department’s payroll is $21 million less than it was just one year ago,” DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos said in a statement Wednesday.
McCrory also has defended the raises.
Progress NC said the General Assembly should look into the raises, which came after McCrory asked agencies to limit spending so available state funding could be used to handle Medicaid cost overruns. The group said lawmakers should review the hiring process for exempt positions in state government and how many raises exempt employees received in recent months.
"Huge pay raises for campaign staffers don't pass the smell test. Something stinks in the McCrory administration, and the N.C. General Assembly should exercise its oversight role,"Brenner said in a statement.