McCrory DHHS official paid more than industry norm - WNCT

McCrory DHHS official paid more than industry norm

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The $85,000 paid to DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz exceeds the $56,000 salary the average professional with less than five years of experience earns. The $85,000 paid to DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz exceeds the $56,000 salary the average professional with less than five years of experience earns.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

The big salary North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory's administration is paying one of the young Republicans who worked on his election campaign last year outpaces what private employers pay for similar work.

The News & Observer reports that the $85,000 paid to top state Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Ricky Diaz exceeds the $56,000 salary a PR Week survey this year found as the industry average for professionals with less than five years experience.

Diaz worked as McCrory's campaign press secretary last year and for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's campaign before that.

The 24-year-old Diaz is making much more than someone with his experience would earn at a private company, said Rick French, CEO of the Raleigh-based public relations firm French West Vaughan. Most PR workers at that age are earning between $35,000 to $45,000 a year, he said.

McCrory's spokeswoman Kim Genardo said it is not fair to compare Diaz' salary with other PR jobs because he has much more responsibility, including managing a staff.

Matthew McKillip, also 24, is paid $87,500 annually as the chief policy adviser to DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos. He has an English degree and spent 11 months as a policy research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute before joining Gov. Pat McCrory's campaign as policy and research coordinator.

Diaz and McKillip each received a more than 35 percent raise at a time when most other state employees, like public school teachers, received no raise at all in the state's new two-year budget.

McCrory defended their raises, saying they came as a result of promotions within the department.

"[Diaz] was in my office as a communications person, working as a lower level communications person in the governor's office," McCrory told WNCN's Penn Holderness. "My Health and Human Services Secretary [Aldona Wos] was so impressed with him, she wanted him to move to Health and Human Services and head up that whole process."

According to his public LinkedIn profile, Diaz graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in economics and East Asian studies.

N.C. FAST IT Director Anthony Vellucci also received a pay raise of more than $23,000 in June, bringing his annual salary to $168,000.

State records show Vellucci's raise was not the result of a promotion; rather, it's classified as a "retention adjustment."

Other high-level staffers at DHHS have recently taken in big raises as well.  For example, 35-year-old Jason Simmons, a senior planner, took in a $22,500 pay raise in April, bringing his salary to $62,500.

Those raises took place after a March 8 memo McCrory sent to state agencies, directing them to reign in salaries due to major Medicaid cost overruns.

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