Cansler departs DHHS
It's rarely a good sign when an agency head gives two weeks' notice. It's an even worse sign when the news is carefully spun and then dropped late on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend.Posted — Updated
It's rarely a good sign when an agency head gives two weeks' notice. It's an even worse sign when the news is carefully spun and then dropped late on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend.
That's exactly what happened today with the announcement of Health and Human Services Secretary Lanier Cansler's hasty return to the private sector.
Perdue raised eyebrows when she named Cansler as her HHS Secretary shortly before her inauguration in 2009. The former Republican lawmaker's credentials weren't in question: he had served as deputy HHS secretary under former Dem Governor Mike Easley. But he left the public sector in 2005 to start a lobbying firm, Cansler-Fuquay Solutions, that consulted for various interests in the health-care sector.
Just days before Cansler's appointment, one of his firm's clients, Computer Sciences Corporation, had won a $265M contract to overhaul the state's Medicaid claims system. As Secretary, he would be in charge of overseeing that contract.
Cansler said he had never actively lobbied for CSC, claiming he had just "introduced" executives to some lawmakers. And he set up firewalls within HHS, naming a deputy secretary to oversee the contract to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest.
CSC hasn't been Cansler's only controversy, either. In 2010, former House Co-Speaker Richard Morgan filed an ethics complaint against Cansler over the awarding of a no-bid HHS contract to another of his former clients, Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence. The State Ethics Commission dismissed the claim in early 2011, finding no evidence of wrongdoing.
Cansler has steadfastly denied any conflict of interest with any of his former clients. And he had some notable successes as HHS secretary.
The audit may have been the proverbial final straw — for one side, or both.
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