RALEIGH — Concerned about “unusual contracts” at the Department of Health and Human Services, Rep. Garland Pierce (D-Wagram) led a press conference this week to demand answers from Gov. Pat McCrory.
“At time when the governor and the General Assembly told teachers and state employees there was no money for a one percent pay raise … now comes word that the DHHS has given out big fat increases to some young, inexperienced political appointees,” Pierce said, flanked by other members of the Legislative Black Caucus, a group he leads.
Pierce said his concerns revolve around the department’s payment of $228,000 to a consultant for eight months of work.
“And former Republican state auditor Les Myrick was paid $58,000 for two months,” Pierce said.
“One of the reasons (the governor) said he wanted to close some of the nonprofits is because some of the directors were making a higher salary than he was,” he said. “Enough is enough.
“You have traumatized and victimized the citizens of this great state and this must stop now.”
In response to the criticism, officials touted cuts which led to a departmental budget that has been reduced by $23 million since last year.
Defending the consultant’s salary to WRAL, department spokesman Ricky Diaz said the department “had to very quickly bring in experts.”
Pierce’s press conference coincided with the presentation of a letter containing more than a dozen questions directed at McCrory and Dr. Aldona Wos, secretary of Health and Human Services for the state.
Asked why he was so insistent in demanding answers from McCrory and Wos, Pierce said that he is responding to an outpouring of interest from constituents.
“I’m getting questions from people and how can I answer the questions of my constituents without (a response from the governor)?”
In addition to questions about the fairness of DHHS salaries, including the 35 percent raise received by Diaz, the letter also inquires about the status of facilities at Dorothea Dix Hospital.
“The (facilities) were determined to not be fit for patients and there appear to be issues as to the health and safety of state employees there,” the letter reads.
Pierce also targeted recent problems with food stamp processing.
“NC counties are adding temporary and permanent staff to help with backlog and provision of food drives to feed those delayed with food stamps,” Pierce wrote. “Please provide an update as to the numbers of backlogged food stamps cases awaiting renewal by county.”