Hefty raises at DHHS raise question of qualifications

Posted August 16, 2013
Updated August 17, 2013

— Gov. Pat McCrory asked state agencies in March to freeze pay raises wherever possible to help the state cover its growing Medicaid shortfall. State personnel records show the agency that oversees Medicaid, the Department of Health and Human Services, gave out hefty raises anyway, especially to the governor's former campaign staffers.

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.

Mark Gogal, director of human resources for DHHS, pointed out that total is equal to 0.25 percent of the total agency payroll.

"Those increases were allowed under the governor's memo for promotions at that time," Gogal said, adding the DHHS total payroll budget is down $21 million from the same time last year. 

  • Matthew McKillip, 24, makes $87,500 a year as a senior policy planner at DHHS. He received a $22,500 raise on April 1.
    McKillip, who worked on McCrory's campaign, has no educational background or experience in health policy on his resume, although he did work briefly at a conservative think tank.
  • Jason Simmons, 35, is also a policy planner at DHHS. He also received a $22,500 raise in April and now earns $62,500 year.
    Simmons was a campaign operative for 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney before going to work for McCrory, but his available information also shows no educational background or experience in health policy.
  • Ricky Diaz, 24, is a public relations officer at DHHS. He got a $23,000 raise in April and now makes $85,000 a year.
    Diaz was McCrory's campaign press secretary and worked in his press office before going to DHHS. His available information shows no educational background or experience in health policy and little experience in communications, with most of that in online and social media.
  • Anthony Vellucci, the information technology director for NC FAST, received a $23,000 raise in June and now earns $168,000 a year. Vellucci does have an IT background, but the raise comes amid an array of problems with the social services benefits system that has left many hungry families without food stamps.

Money DHHS handed out big raises amid tight budget

WRAL News asked DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos for more information about how the raises were awarded and how Republican campaign staffers with no health policy experience had landed highly paid jobs running the agency.

Gogal declined to answer questions regarding the hires' qualifications, responding instead that all of them are qualified for their positions and that the agency must "hire and retain individuals capable of moving its massive policy and budgetary issues forward."

"The individuals you inquired about were promoted to positions with significant responsibilities and a high level of accountability. The department's goal is to hire outstanding talent, regardless of age, to aggressively implement much needed solutions," Gogal said in a statement.

"More importantly, these individuals are in fact capably and successfully performing the significant duties of their positions," he said.

Wos made news in February for hiring a director for the state's pre-kindergarten program, Dianna Lightfoot, whose online postings revealed she was opposed to pre-K. Lightfoot had also tweeted that the Japan earthquake was caused by an "ultrasonic beam" from China or North Korea .

Lightfoot opted not to accept the job one day after WRAL News broke the story. DHHS at that time declined to explain its vetting process for new hires.


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  • walt4ncsu Aug 22, 2013

    I can say first hand that this matter extends beyond DHHS into other state agencies. Woefully under-qualified, "connected" individuals are given preference to those with years of experience busting their humps for the citizens of our great state.

    But as despicable as it is, it's certainly nothing new. The "good 'ole boy" system is alive and well in NC government, albeit shifted now towards the other side of the aisle.

  • racoats3 Aug 22, 2013

    Boy did I waste my time earning my graduate degrees and working hard and doing well in job performance with the state. If I only knew all you had to do is be friends with somebody or work on a campaign and you get the high paying positions. This type of thing went on under Easley and Perdue. Directors of state facilities created jobs, gave phony promotions, and had their friends to write on their own job descriptions to make the maximum of salary ranges. And the most disturbing thing is that State Personnel is suppose to check these things and stop it from happening. We were hoping McCrory was going to do better with state personnel, especially in DHHS, but it appears it is going to be the same old thing. Republicans are upset too. It is not only democrats. Morale in state government has really dropped way down since this come to light. Do a survey, you will see.

  • beaupeep Aug 21, 2013

    "Honestly, I'm a Democrat but I voted for McCrory because I believed he's speeches. I guess the old adage is true, never trust a politician." - csw

    Which just proves another adage. A democrat will believe anything that comes out of a politician.

  • monami Aug 21, 2013

    "deblog, they didn't get a pay raise, the took a new job. There is a big difference, but you and WRAL don't understand that. Too Bad you can't sue WRAL for slanted news."

    The issue is that these people were put into jobs without (any) qualifications. Therefore, both the hiring into the jobs and the pay given to them are bogus.

  • free2bme Aug 21, 2013

    deblog, they didn't get a pay raise, the took a new job. There is a big difference, but you and WRAL don't understand that. Too Bad you can't sue WRAL for slanted news.babedan

    Above are the typical comments of people like the NC GA. Such an unimportant, in the clouds statement. These people did receive unearned raises for the made up job they are supposedly doing. Regardless the point is, this is wrong. Our NC tax payer money going to waste. Yet, teachers have been shafted in every way. The republicans got a nerve to complain about spending and the budget. McCrory better be thankful for Bev because he would not have had the extra money to dish out to his friends if she did not leave an excess.

  • Southern Girl Aug 21, 2013

    I have supported almost all of the Governor's decisions, but this was too much to support. With teachers struggling on their low salaries, this is no way fair. I hope the Governor will reconsider this. If he doesn't, I think he will see his numbers go even lower, and it is not only from Democrats. I think he is trying to do the right thing for NC, and I know he is taking a lot of heat. Hopefully, he will reconsider this and the drug testing for welfare recipients.

  • babedan Aug 21, 2013

    deblog, they didn't get a pay raise, the took a new job. There is a big difference, but you and WRAL don't understand that. Too Bad you can't sue WRAL for slanted news.

  • weesiebaby Aug 20, 2013

    Well the good old Tea-party conservatives of NC voted for the new state government administration so stop crying.........you got what you voted for

  • Antivenin Aug 20, 2013

    Time to move.

  • dwm329 Aug 20, 2013

    And to think I voted for McCrory wishing for positive change thinking he wasn't going to follow the narrow negative path paved with Republican prejudices. What a disappointment.