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McCrory says media unfairly targets DHHS pay hikes

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Both Communications Director Ricky Diaz (left) and Policy Advisor Matthew McKillip (right) took in salary increases in excess of $20,000 a year, bringing both of their salaries close to $90,000 a year. Both Communications Director Ricky Diaz (left) and Policy Advisor Matthew McKillip (right) took in salary increases in excess of $20,000 a year, bringing both of their salaries close to $90,000 a year.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Just how much should the public know about the salaries and lives of public employees?

At a news conference on Tuesday, Gov. Pat McCrory chastised outside groups and the media, saying their scrutiny of some public employee salaries has gone too far.

"I am concerned that the line is being moved continually about the intrusion into people's private lives," McCrory said.

The governor's criticism comes after weeks of controversy surrounding pay raises, promotions and the awarding of certain contracts to outside agencies at the Department of Health and Human Services. 

This week, Mardy Peal, a former lecturer at East Carolina University and a McCrory donor, was hired as a senior policy advisor making $95,000 a year.  The position was reportedly never posted.

The hire comes after it was discovered in August that two 24-year-old former McCrory campaign aids received promotions and big raises. Both Communications Director Ricky Diaz and Policy Advisor Matthew McKillip took in salary increases in excess of $20,000 a year, bringing both of their salaries close to $90,000 a year. 

Diaz has no prior healthcare experience.

It was also discovered that Anthony Vellucci, the information technology director for NC, received a pay raise of more than $23,000 in June, bringing his annual salary to $168,000. The "retention adjustment," as it was classified in a state salary database, comes as the program has faced criticism for backlogs and delays in delivering food stamps to families in need.

More controversy surrounded a $228,000 consulting contract awarded to Joe Hauck earlier this year to help with financial issues in the department.  Hauck works with DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos' husband.

McCrory said some of the news reporting about those transactions has unfairly targeted people's private lives.

"That comes with the territory, this is not private industry.  This is our government that we pay for," said Jane Pinsky, director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. "The governor has the right to hire whomever he wants, but he has to understand that we, as citizens, want to know the details."

On Tuesday, McCrory once again defended Wos.

"We're fortunate to have Dr. Aldona Wos in this job along with my other members of my cabinet," McCrory said. "She's completely focused on trying to fix a very broken operation that she inherited, and to do that you have to make some short-term decisions."

The governor's office said some of those tough, short-term decisions have to do with fixing a pair of new state computer programs that are operated by DHHS.  

WNCN has reported on on-going problems with food stamp delays due to NC FAST as well as problems with NC TRACKS, the state's new Medicaid billing system.

Providers, like Laura Williard, with Advanced Home Care, say DHHS is weeks or even months behind in paying out Medicaid claims.

"A nightmare.  It's been a nightmare for the patients.  It's been a nightmare for the providers," Williard told WNCN last week.

McCrory said fixing those problems requires having the best people in charge.

Pinsky said knowing who's best requires the public to be informed.

"What they're being paid by the people of North Carolina is our business," Pinsky said.

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Derick Waller

Derick is a reporter for WNCN covering crime, education, politics and just about everything in between. He has a knack for adapting to any story and consistently delivers information quickly across multiple platforms. More>>

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