Raleigh, N.C. — The director of the state's NC FAST system, launched this year to streamline the delivery of social services, is leaving in March for a job in the private sector.
The state Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that Anthony Vellucci, who has led the NC FAST team since 2010, will leave March 7 for EngagePoint, a health care IT firm in Maryland. Last June, the department boosted Vellucci's salary by $23,000 after he received another job offer, telling lawmakers he was critical to the success of the NC FAST program.
"The retention increase in Mr. Vellucci's salary resulted in his agreement to continue to serve as the Director for NC FAST," DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos wrote to members of the Legislative Black Caucus on Nov. 4 in defense of Vellucci's $168,000 annual salary.
On Wednesday, DHHS Chief Information Officer Joe Cooper said Vellucci has been "instrumental" in the implementation of the new system, which combines 19 social services programs into one.
"He truly turned a vision into reality," Cooper said in a statement. "His unwavering dedication to this complex and far-reaching initiative will ensure that North Carolinians are better served by DHHS and county social services for years to come. Anthony's passion, outstanding work ethic and expertise will be missed."
DHHS spokesperson Julie Henry declined to comment on whether the department offered Vellucci another raise after he informed supervisors of the most recent job offer, saying personnel discussions are not public record.
But she said Vellucci's departure would not impact the operation or implementation of the system.
"I know right now, the goal is to keep things moving forward," Henry said.
The roll-out of NC FAST has been plagued at times by technical problems that significantly slowed workers attempting to process food stamp cases. In July, email records showed DHHS downplayed problems associated with a system update that contributed to a massive backlog of food stamp cases.
The majority of the backlog, estimated in August to be as high as 70,000 cases, wasn't cleared until Feb. 10, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture threatened to pull federal funding for the administration of the food stamp program.
But speaking before lawmakers Feb. 11, DHHS officials said that, although there will always be some issues with major systems like NC FAST, the "key defects" impacting county workers in Food and Nutrition Services had all been fixed.
"The performance of this system has been stellar for FNS in catching up their work," Deputy Secretary for Human Services Sherry Bradsher said. "There have been no performance issues, and the defects described by the USDA have been corrected."
Angela Taylor, who joined the NC FAST team in August as deputy director, will serve as acting program director after Vellucci's departure.
"Angela has been an invaluable partner to Anthony for the past several months," Cooper said in the release. "I am confident that her strong leadership will ensure the success of NC FAST."
It's not clear when the search will begin for a permanent director.
"NC FAST is a major IT implementation. Staffing needs are continually evaluated to ensure the highest quality services are delivered for our clients: DHHS, county social services departments and the people of North Carolina," Henry said in an email. "We will take the time necessary to make an assessment before beginning any recruiting efforts.