Merritt pay

by | Oct 10, 2013 | DHHS, Editor's Blog | 4 comments

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.


  1. cosmicjanitor

    I am now ashamed at having allowed the publicity surrounding Mary Easly’s association with NCSU to have informed my opinion of her and, to some extent, former Governor Easly also. I will henceforth apply more due diligence before allowing press reports to mislead my thinking and I apologize for using this forum to label former Governor Easly a ‘slime ball’, something I now find indefensible regardless of the many ethics investigations his tenure as governor elicited or the resultant suspension of his license to practice law, which was eventually reinstated.

  2. Jbailey

    So Mary Easley does a very good job; no one actually finds true fault with her work or work product, but none the less she is removed from her position by those with an agenda. No one ever actually provides a clear, proven and exact reason detailing any personal malfeasance and then we have this alleged auditor who it seems had no business accusing anyone of anything. To say she is young and inexperienced is just plain wrong. Anyone who says that could never possibly have read her bio. She did improve the program in a tremendous way at NCSU. No good deed goes unpunished..

  3. DNelson

    First we have the young and inexperienced at about $85,000 a piece, and now we have the not-so-young but equally inexperienced at more than 3 times that rate. So… how many teachers could be hired for almost half a million dollars? How many meals for children in poverty could be provided for that amount of money? Even more puzzling is that Wos and McCrony seem surprised that people are actually questioning these appointments. Are they really that out of touch?

  4. Keith

    I am certainly in agreement with your assessment of Les Merritt, but we need to be cautious too aggressively praising Mary Easley. Her job was in fact a political patronage job at my Alma mater with her getting almost a 100% raise in her 2nd year with no increase in responsibility and evidence of less accomplishment. As a lifelong fan of NCSU and a reasonable fan of Governor Easley, I looked hard for reasons to be disappointed in heads rolling at NCSU and could not find many. This was a sad episode, Mary Easley’s qualifications and accomplishments notwithstanding.

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