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DHHS hires McCrory donor for $95,000 senior position

By Joseph Neff and Lynn Bonner
jneff@newsobserver.com lbonner@newsobserver.com

The state Department of Health and Human Services has filled a newly created $95,000 senior planner position with a Greenville woman who was a medical school lecturer for three years but who has been absent from the health care labor force since 2002.

Margaret “Mardy” Peal, 42, has been hired as part of the “Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina,” Gov. Pat McCrory’s initiative to allow private insurance companies to run the government’s health care program for the poor in North Carolina.

Peal gave $1,250 to the McCrory campaign in 2012. She helped organize the Eastern North Carolina Tea Party in 2010.

The job was not posted, which prevented others from applying. Department officials declined to provide a job description or list Peal’s duties.

Secretary Aldona Wos declined to be interviewed, as did Peal.

“Some of the relevant highlights of Mardy Peal’s experience include having served on the faculty at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine and her experience in evidence-based medicine,” Mark Gogal, director of human resources for the department, said in a statement. “We’re fortunate to have her as a part of the team working on the ‘Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina.’ ”

Peal received a master’s degree in Health Education from ECU in 1996. She was hired as a lecturer after her graduation, earning a $30,000 salary. She worked until 1999, when she was being paid $34,729, according to state payroll records.

According to an ECU spokesman, Peal was employed as a lecturer in the Department of Family Medicine at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine from Aug. 12, 1996, through Dec. 17, 1999. She lectured on standardized patient care.

Wos has come under fire for recent personnel decisions.

Controversy erupted in August when the N.C. Justice Center reported on big raises given to two former McCrory campaign workers. Ricky Diaz, 24, received a 37 percent raise to $85,000 as DHHS communications director. Matt McKillip, 24, received a 35 percent raise and is paid $87,500 as chief policy officer at DHHS.

In September, The News & Observer reported that the department had awarded a personal services contract to Joe Hauck, a vice president in Wos’ husband’s firm, that has paid Hauck more than $228,000 for about eight months of work as an adviser.

Wos also fired Dr. Rebecca King, who spent 35 years as head of oral health. King said her lack of cooperation in ferreting out hygienists who took vacation time to lobby legislators against cuts in oral health contributed to her dismissal.

King’s former supervisor, Dr. Laura Gerald, resigned as public health director in late July, citing differences with the agency’s direction and policies

A political hire

DHHS has four categories of planners. The highest, Human Services Planner IV, has a salary range of $45,206 to $74,719 and requires a master’s degree and three years of human services experience, or a bachelor’s degree and five years of human services experience.

Those limits don’t apply to Peal, who is a political hire who serves at the pleasure of the governor. Her job is exempt from state personnel laws and doesn’t have civil-service protections.

Medicaid is a $14 billion-a-year program in the state, and the cost has been rising. Roughly a third of that comes from state taxpayers, and the rest comes from federal funds. McCrory, a Republican, says privatization will provide better care at a lower price.

According to court files, Peal was married in 1998, changing her name to Mardy Grubb. She stopped working outside the home after her first child was born in 2001.

Grubb “is a stay at home parent who has not earned an income since early 2001,” according to a judge’s 2011 court order. “She is very talented and has work experience. She is also engaged in civic and political groups and activities, and devotes a substantial amount of volunteer time at the children’s school working on projects such as developing a high school curriculum.”

Grubb homeschooled her children from May 2007 to January 2010, when they enrolled in Christ Covenant School in Winterville. She became a board member at the school in June 2010. She is also a board member of the Carolina Pregnancy Center, an anti-abortion ministry.

In October 2008, Grubb posted to an online forum that she hoped to move with her husband and children to Chile, where the couple had honeymooned. She sought information on how her husband, an anesthesiologist, could obtain a visa and a medical license for Chile.

She also listed some of the reasons for wanting to leave the United States: “how many dollars can the treasury print before they are worthless? what will happen when the entitlements have to be scaled back?? For us we also have additional concerns relating to healthcare. One concern is the move to a socialized system in which folks who move outside the system are punished (Hillarycare) and the lack of torte (sic) reform – I could go on ad nauseum (sic).”

Organizing conservatives

In April 2009, Mardy Grubb appeared on a Greenville talk radio show promoting the inaugural rally for the Eastern North Carolina Tea Party.

The Greenville Daily Reflector covered the rally, where Grubb was one of the speakers. The Reflector reported:

“ ‘The out-of-control spending we see coming out of Washington is going to have dire effects on the next generation,’ Grubb said, her son and daughter standing at her side. ‘But the government cannot continue to intrude in our lives if we don’t let them. And we must fight. Not with weapons, but with knowledge.’ ”

After her divorce in 2011, Peal reverted to her maiden name. According to her statement of economic interest filed with the state, her only income in 2012 came from alimony and from Christ Covenant School, where she taught and developed curriculum.

Neff: 919-829-4516
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