Over at the Department of Health and Human Services, audits are giving Secretary Aldona Wos headaches. Luckily, though, she’s got former State Auditor Les Merritt on a $26,000 a month contract to help her sort out the mess. But the whole episode raises questions about Merritt’s own history.
A few years ago, the press had a field day with Merritt’s report on N.C. State University’s hiring of Mary Easley, wife of then-Governor Mike Easley. As part of her job, Easley found speakers for the Millennium Seminars. She brought in Lindsay Graham, Bill Bradley, the head of NASA, CEO’s of Wachovia and Glaxo, even Bill Clinton and Robert Reich, who waived their hefty speaking fees. At the same time, she taught two graduate courses, one of which, the Administrative Officers Masters Program, she literally wrote the text book with the proceeds going to families of slain law enforcement officers. Easley also started a dual degree program between N.C. State and Campbell University School of Law that allowed State students to earn their Masters of Public Administration. Meanwhile, she was building the Center for Public Service Leadership at NCSU.
Compare her record to that of Les Merritt, who is getting paid $312,000 for part time work — roughly double the salary Mary Easley received when Merritt issued an audit saying she was overpaid.
While Easley’s office was actually working, Merritt’s tenure as CFO at DHHS has been a disaster. He can’t even get out checks to health care providers on time or in some cases at all.
Mary Easley was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wake Forest University Law School and a successful prosecutor who later built her own law firm, and served as a law professor. These jobs require skills, experience and responsibility. She didn’t just show up in a courtroom and try a case without training and expertise.
In contrast, Les Merritt is getting a contract worth up to $312,000 as CFO for mental health at DHHS, a subject he knows nothing about. It might be helpful if he had the experience to do his job like Mary Easley did. But it seems that’s standard operating procedure at DHHS these days–fat checks political cronies with no experience and nothing to show for it.