DHHS has high salaries among declining average salaries
RALEIGH — Several administrators in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services are being paid more than the previous person in the job, even as payroll and the average salaries at the agency have declined over the past year.
The agency has also created several new high-salary positions since Gov. Pat McCrory took office in January,.
Joe Cooper was hired to be the agency's information technology chief. He is making $175,000, about $20,000 more than the information technology chief for all of state government.
Medicaid director Carol Steckel is making $210,000 a year, though the state's new salary plan caps pay for that job at $136,900. She is making $48,000 more than her predecessor.
The agency hired Rod Davis to be its first chief financial officer at a salary of $169,148, and its budget director, Jim Slate, received a $30,660 raise, to $144,000 this spring.
Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Ricky Diaz said the administrators could make much more in private business and the management of the 16,000-employee agency is being shuffled to resemble a more corporate structure.
"The emphasis is implementing a reorganization of the department of this size to reflect what you'd find in the private sector," Diaz said.
Diaz's salary has also come under fire. The 24-year-old who worked for McCrory's campaign last year is making $85,000.
House Minority Leader Larry Hall wants a legislative committee to meet on Sept. 3 when lawmakers return to consider McCrory's two vetoes and discuss the pay increases and promotions by the governor and his administration.
"The Republicans just passed a budget that fired thousands of educators and provided no pay raises to teachers or rank-and-file state employees," Hall, D-Durham, said in a statement. "At the same time, Governor McCrory's administration is passing out huge pay raises to former campaign staffers with little to no experience in the jobs they've been given. The public is outraged, and they should be. The General Assembly has a responsibility to hold a public committee meeting and ask the governor's administration for a public explanation of hiring processes and their use of taxpayer money."
The Department of Health and Human Services has suffered problems for years in serving people in psychiatric hospitals and centers for developmentally disabled people. The new higher salaries will be well worth it if the agency is fixed, said Rep Nelson Dollar, R-Wake.
"The greater concern is going to be, can these people produce, can they solve some of the very serious, chronic long-term problems we've had with the agency," Dollar said. "If they can do that, I'm sure they'll be worth their keep."