Local Politics

DHHS begins management realignment

Posted May 19, 2010 3:35 p.m. EDT
Updated May 19, 2010 7:00 p.m. EDT

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services

— North Carolina Secretary of Health and Human Services Lanier Cansler announced several management changes Wednesday that he said are part of a larger realignment of the state's largest agency.

The charges are designed to help DHHS "achieve a maximum operational and service-based focus," according to a memo Cansler issued to department staff.

Mike Watson, who has served for the past year as assistant secretary for the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services, was named acting deputy secretary for Health Services.

Watson will succeed Allen Feezor, whose new duties include helping Cansler coordinate the state's role in the new national health reform law, developing department strategy and overseeing the DHHS Excels initiative.

Mike Lancaster, who served six years as chief of clinical policy in mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse, also left DHHS as part of the realignment, according to the memo.

Official had tax problems at old job

On Tuesday, Cansler named John Tote, longtime executive director of the Mental Health Association in North Carolina, as the next director of mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse, replacing Leza Wainwright, who will retire Sept. 1.

The IRS has filed almost $1.5 million in tax liens against the Mental Health Association of North Carolina since 2006 for failing to pay employment taxes, according to court records. Neither the IRS nor the state Department of Revenue could say Wednesday if any of that money has since been paid.

Tax filings for 2006 and 2007, the most recent years on record, also show the group's expenses exceeded revenue. Still, Tote's salary increased during that time.

Tote couldn't be reached for comment, but DHHS issued a statement saying officials learned of the association's tax problems Wednesday and were looking into the matter.