Al Delia, the secretary of health and human services for Gov. Bev Perdue, responds to a piece from Kendra Gerlach, current director of the DHHS’s Office of Communications, that ran on the Observer’s website last month:
On Oct. 27, a political appointee in the Department of Health and Human Services communications office whined on the Charlotte Observer’s website that the Perdue Administration was to blame for everything from the staffing problems at the beginning of the McCrory Administration; to the mismanagement of the roll-out of NC TRACKS; to the exorbitantly high salaries and payments made on sole-source, no-bid basis to DHHS political appointees and contractors; to “cost overruns” in the Medicaid budget.
The facts are pesky things.
When I left as Secretary of DHHS at the end of 2012 every single senior manager, division director, assistant secretary, deputy secretary and even my own chief of staff, remained in place and agreed to serve the new administration for as long as needed. I made the willingness of these public servants to stay until the new administration could get its bearings very clear during the transition. As pointed out in the recent op-ed, there were staffing challenges from the outset of the McCrory administration. What was not mentioned, however, was that those challenges where created by the new administration’s abrupt firings, forced resignations and resignations submitted in disgust – before replacements were even identified. And often when replacements were identified, they were not qualified. Lest we forget, several of those resignations and firings were even of the McCrory Administration’s own politically appointed DHHS senior staff, some of whom were there barely long enough to get a key to their office before having to turn it in. None of this was because the old administration left a mess to be cleaned-up by the new.
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Even the circumstances surrounding Ms. Angie Sligh, the head of NC TRACKS, were misrepresented. In 2012 the legislature and the state auditor rightly brought issues about large Compensatory Time Off (CTO) and overtime payments made to her over several years to my and the public’s attention. In response, I resolved the issue before I left office. That resolution included an independent labor market analysis conducted by the Office of State Personnel which documented an increase in Ms. Sligh’s salary of approximately 25 percent was appropriate to her responsibilities. Crucially, that resolution also prohibited Ms. Sligh from receiving any further cash payments for CTO or overtime. It even limited her to a maximum of 200 hours of CTO, for which she could not receive cash payment! The new administration just didn’t listen, nor apparently, did they read or abide by the well-documented resolution.
When the Perdue Administration ended, NC TRACKS was scheduled to “go live” in July 2013, with a great deal of planned testing and redundancy designed to minimize or eliminate disruption. These plans were altered by the new administration. Physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers all over North Carolina bore, and continue to bear, the disastrous and costly consequences.
And finally, those Medicaid budget overruns about which we continue to hear so much… Is it really an overrun if Gov. Perdue warned the legislature (in writing) the budget for Medicaid was woefully inadequate to pay for a program whose number of entitled recipients was growing at record levels because the world economy nearly collapsed? If you agree to pay your bank a mortgage of $800 each month, is it a budget overrun if you knowingly set aside only $600 to make those payments?
Enough finger pointing. Enough demonizing others. Stop trying to divert attention. Look in the mirror. Tighten your belt and do the job!