Gov. McCrory 'very proud' of DHHS leader Wos - WRBL

Gov. McCrory 'very proud' of DHHS leader Wos

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Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday praised Secretary Aldona Wos a day after a contentious hearing about the Department of Health and Human Services.

"I'm very proud of my secretary, thank you," McCrory said in a brief interview Wednesday morning. He was appearing in Raleigh at a celebration of Nationwide Insurance's 85th anniversary in North Carolina. The event included NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, a spokeswoman for NASCAR.

McCrory did not elaborate further. McCrory's press office said they would try to make time to address the media Wednesday afternoon. Wos and the DHHS leadership appeared at an all-day hearing Tuesday at the General Assembly to discuss the department's performance. The hearing included input from health care providers frustrated by the NCFast program.

Wos also has been criticized in some circles for hiring people at high salaries who had limited experience and faced some tough questions on that Tuesday.

Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Republican from Waxhaw, asked, "What am I to tell a teacher who's making $30,000 a year if you were in my shoes? How the state can hire somebody for $85,000 or $65,000 or $314,000 or somebody work for one month and get money than a teacher makes in a year?"

Wos told Tucker, "I have over 16,000 employees. I have hired over 1,400 people since January and am still hiring. The salary scale that the gentlemen received are not only in line with what their predecessors had – actually, it's less than that – their obligation far exceeds their predecessors, the amount of people reporting to them exceeds their predecessors, and the work they do is invaluable. I trust them.  I trust them not only personally but I trust that the work they do for the state and for the citizens is monumental."

Mark Gogal, the head of human relations for DHHS, said Tuesday that the department followed all state guidelines in making hires. Some hires, he said, did not require a job posting, and the job could be filled by the preference of the department leadership. He said all personal services contracts complied with state guidelines.

He concluded by saying, "I have worked for numerous organizations and many leaders in the past 20 years or so. In my HR background, this leadership team at the Department of Health and Human Services is one of the strongest I have been associated with."

Many of the questions at the end of the afternoon involved specific parts of policy, with Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Republican, asking a variety of questions. In one, he pointedly asked, "Are we or are we not looking at privatizing Medicaid in the state?"

Wos said it wasn't possible to answer that without more information, which she thought she might have next month.

"It's just not a question that should be answered without full data," she said.

Still, tempers flared at parts of the hearing. One senator defending DHHS called all the calls for information about DHHS "a witch hunt" and asked Wos about all the Freedom of Information Act requests coming to the department from the media.

"It's becoming impactful," Wos said. "We have several people that work on this full-time and we have attorneys (who review the requests). "It's very time-consuming for us."

But Nesbitt, in response, said, "It's not a witch hunt to try to find out what's going on."

Reporter Bianca Spinosa contributed to this report


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