To borrow from Mark Twain, rumors of Aldona Wos’ departure were greatly exaggerated. However, they were also eminently believable. That’s why the rumors had such legs. And they may still be true–just not last week.
Most people, including Republicans, Democrats and journalists, have expected Wos to go. She has proven to be an incompetent administrator with no visible political skills. More significantly, though, she has damaged Governor Pat McCrory’s reputation. (For a blog history of Aldona Wos’ tenure, click here.)
Health and Human Services is the largest department in state government and the one most difficult to manage. In GOP world, though, it’s probably the least important. It just serves people, not businesses. And those people it serves are the freeloaders who are taking the hard earned money of the “makers” of Mitt Romney fame. But while the most ideological Republicans, of whom Aldona Wos is one, may not care what happens at DHHS, the rest of the state does.
Wos will likely be gone before long. She has run off most of the career administrators, losing invaluable institutional history. She replaced them with ideologues and political hacks who will try to fit square pegs into round holes, creating an even bigger mess than is already there.
As more problems emerge with fewer people who have the skills to address them, DHHS will likely stay in the news for the foreseeable future. Wos’s tenure will continue to damage McCrory and the pressure to force her out will grow. With few allies anywhere except in the Governor’s Mansion, she and McCrory will find themselves isolated and battling the press, the legislature and Democrats. Finally, the pressure will be too much.
Really, though, the whole episode is a reflection on McCrory. Either he doesn’t recognize the damage Wos has done, both to the department and his administration, or he’s in denial. She has undercut his most powerful campaign arguments–to restore credibility in state government by ending cronyism and improving transparency. Those are the reasons he was elected, not to privatize programs or transform education into some right-wing pipe dream.
Everything that has happened under Wos–the inflated salaries, the campaign cronies, the sweetheart deals, the lack of transparency–will come back to haunt him. Along with breaking his highly public pledge not to restrict access to abortion, Wos’s actions are eroding the Governor’s credibility with voters and the press. It’s not rumors that are hurting McCrory. It’s Aldona Wos.