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Top spokesman to leave state DHHS post

The communications director at the embattled Department of Health and Human Services is departing his post later this month to take a new top-level position with a Washington political consulting firm.

Ricky Diaz, 24, will join Fifty Plus One (FP1) Strategies as a vice president for the firm, which specializes in political advertising and public affairs for political candidates. “It was an opportunity that presented itself and one that I can’t pass up,” Diaz said Wednesday in an interview. “I just wanted to get back into politics and this gives me the opportunity to work on campaigns around the country.”

Diaz said his departure was not related to the McCrory administration’s troubled state health agency. The agency is embroiled in another controversy this week after officials sent nearly 50,000 children’s insurance cards with personal information to the wrong addresses, a violation of federal privacy laws.

The mistake is re-agitating critics who are calling for the ouster of Secretary Aldona Wos after numerous high-profile blunders in the last seven months that led to delays in Medicaid claim payments and food stamp delivery.

Hiring Diaz at a salary of $85,000 generated its own controversy last year as state lawmakers and critics questioned the substantial salaries and qualifications of Diaz and another 24-year-old former campaign aide. Diaz would not comment on his salary at his new firm.

In a statement Wednesday, Wos thanked Diaz for his service. “Ricky is a bright, energetic leader and a strong communicator,” she said. “I thank him for his hard work and dedication, and his efforts to increase the efficiency and streamline the operations of the Office of Communications. His work will leave a lasting impression on the Department. We will miss him, but I know he will achieve great things working in our nation’s capital.”

Diaz, who graduated from Vanderbilt with a bachelor’s degree in economics, began working for Pat McCrory’s campaign in 2012 as press secretary. He joined the new administration a year ago as deputy communications director in the governor’s office before moving to DHHS. His prior experience includes communications work for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

His last day at DHHS is Jan. 24. He starts his new position in February.

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