McCrory backs Wos at embattled DHHS after $95,000 hire - WNCN: News, Weather

McCrory backs Wos at embattled DHHS after $95,000 hire

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Gov. Pat McCrory voiced support for Secretary Aldona Wos on Wednesday after her department continues to face scrutiny.

An anti-abortion activist has been hired as a senior policy adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services. It is the latest in a string of politically connected hires at the embattled state agency.

Margaret "Mardy" Peal began work last month at an annual salary of $95,000, DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz confirmed. Her salary is well above the $74,719 maximum listed by the state for the highest level of DHHS planner.

The News & Observer reported Wednesday that the job was not posted, and that DHHS officials could not provide a description of her responsibilities. The new position was exempted from state personnel and hiring rules.

Futhermore, campaign finance records show Peal is a McCrory campaign donor.

Records show Peal recently served on the board of the anti-abortion Carolina Pregnancy Center, a group that emphasizes Christian scripture and encourages abstinence. She was also an early organizer for the conservative Eastern North Carolina Tea Party and gave $1,250 to the 2012 campaign of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

Peal, 42, has a master's degree in health education from East Carolina's Brody School of Medicine and worked there as a lecturer in the 1990s before becoming a stay-at-home mom.

"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. We're fortunate to have her as a part of the team working on the 'Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina," said Mark Gogal, director of human resources at DHHS.

Gogal said DHHS has to hire and retain individuals with skills in many areas.

McCrory, in meeting with reporters Wednesday, said he thought criticism of DHHS was unfair.

He also expressed concern that the reporting of details of recent hires might deter people from seeking jobs in government.

"I'm very concerned in hiring future people who want to come into state government for a temporary amount of time, the intrusion into their personal life by people, political operatives and others, that will distract people from wanting to be engaged in public service for a year or two," McCrory said.  

When asked if DHHS, and by extension his administration has been transparent, he replied, "Everything we've done has been transparent...we have followed all rules and regulations...I am proud of the talent we have hired."

He put his full support behind Wos, adding, "I am not going to get distracted by micro-managing departments. I've got to give that responsibility to my secretaries."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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