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N.C. Opinions: Greensboro

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Did state get bamboozled?

From an editorial published in the (Greensboro) News & Record on Wednesday:

Trust us, state officials say, a High Point consultant earned every penny of the $310,000 in tax money he made last year for less than 11 months’ work.

And, like it or not, we’ll have to take their word for it, because there’s little else to go on.

The consultant, Joe Hauck, left behind scant documentation of his work, according to records obtained by The Associated Press. To be more specific, Hauck left behind two memos totaling slightly more than three double-spaced, typewritten pages. The state also produced spreadsheets that documented cuts to some nonprofit charities at Hauck’s suggestion. And that was pretty much it.

Hauck, a contributor to Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign, was hired by state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos to find efficiencies within her agency. Before that, he worked for New Breed Logistics, a company owned by Wos’ husband, Louis DeJoy. Hauck returned to that job in December.

As for what he did for the taxpayers, a DHHS spokesman waxed eloquent about Hauck’s many accomplishments. “All of the documents provided are the direct result of Joe Hauck’s leadership, and they demonstrate his extensive market and best-practice research, review of policies, contracts and historical data, and collaboration with subject matter experts within DHHS,” the spokesman, Kevin Howell, told the AP. All that in three pages.

When Hauck himself was sought out to shed more light on his accomplishments, he didn’t return a reporter’s call. As for the recommendations Hauck made, few broke new ground. One proposed higher salaries for DHHS’ doctors, dentists and nurses – a move previously proposed in a 2012 study by DHHS staff. His suggestion that DHHS cut $5 million in state support to nonprofits had been ordered by state lawmakers a year earlier.

Hauck was hired in January 2013 at $125 an hour. That meant he was paid $41,000 more than the yearly salary of DHHS’ highest-paid permanent employee, a physician.

This news follows a pattern of heavy spending on employees with connections to McCrory’s election campaign. Former DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz, who had been a McCrory campaign aide, was hired, barely out of college, for $85,000 a year.

At least one of Hauck’s proposals makes good sense and ought to be implemented forthwith: for the agency to curb its reliance on expensive outside contractors. Like Joe Hauck.

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