You would think that Pat McCrory would get fed up. Virtually every day there is another bad headline about the Department of Health and Human Services. But, nope, he thinks the department and its leader, Secretary Aldona Wos are doing just fine.

The latest flap is former State Auditor Les Merritt sitting on the Ethics Commission while also cashing in on Aldona Wos’ free-spending ways. Merritt is being paid a contract worth $312,000 a year. You read that right. That’s $26,000 per month. Not bad if you can get it.

Fortunately, Merritt is leaving the Ethics Commission. Merritt said he didn’t even think about the potential conflict. I guess DHHS pays better than public service.

But not only is Merritt working for DHHS, he’s also serving on the Board of Directors of WakeMed. WakeMed receives millions of dollars from Medicaid, which is administered by DHHS. So, is Merritt’s position paid? Regardless, it sure is ugly.

Two weeks ago, WakeMed President Bill Atkinson sharply criticized DHHS for “raising costs and delaying projects” and he warned that rejecting the Medicaid expansion was a big mistake.  Then, last week Atkinson was canned by WakeMed citing “differences with the board.”

I wonder if any of those differences were with Les Merritt and his fat deal with Aldona Wos? Who knows but it sure looks like a conflict whether it is or not.

Ironically, Merritt not only served on the state Ethics Commission, he also started an organization called The Foundation for Ethics in Public Service, Inc. According to its LinkedIn page, the foundation will “bring a new level of transparency, accountability and integrity to all levels of American government.” I sure wish he would bring some of that stuff to Aldona Wos.

What’s even more ironic is Merritt’s long history of sketchy ethical decisions. When he served as State Auditor, Merritt was also moonlighting as an investment consultant. Maybe he didn’t do anything wrong, but government transparency is, at least partially, about perceptions and appearances. If Merritt can’t see the potential conflicts of interests in all these cases, he has no business overseeing ethics in the first place.

This is how Republicans run government like a business. Give all your friends and upper management fat pay checks while ignoring the needs of working stiffs. Stack boards and commissions with political cronies who will do your bidding. And then plead ignorance when you’re finally called out. What a way to run a government.

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