WJTV News Channel 12 - McCrory defends double-digit pay raises for 2 state employees

McCrory defends double-digit pay raises for 2 state employees

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From left to right: DHHS Communications Director Ricky Diaz, DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos, DHHS Chief Policy Advisor Matthew McKillip From left to right: DHHS Communications Director Ricky Diaz, DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos, DHHS Chief Policy Advisor Matthew McKillip
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Gov. Pat McCrory is defending the 35 percent raises given to two high-level Health and Human Services employees earlier this year.

UPDATE: More raises at DHHS; McCrory memo ordered cutbacks

McCrory said DHHS Communications Director Ricky Diaz and DHHS Chief Policy Advisor Matthew McKillip received their raises as a result of their promotions within the department.

Diaz and McKillip were the recipients of those raises beginning in April. Data shows Diaz received a $23,000 a year pay bump, bringing his annual salary to $85,000. At the same time, McKillip began taking home an extra $22,500, bringing his annual salary to $87,500.

The salary data came from the Charlotte Observer's public employee salary database.

"[Diaz] was in my office as a communications person, working as a lower level communications person in the governor's office," McCrory said Thursday. "My Health and Human Services Secretary [Aldona Wos] was so impressed with him, she wanted him to move to Health and Human Services and head up that whole process."

The 35 and 37 percent pay increases come at a time when most other state employees, like public school teachers, received no raise at all in the state's new two-year budget.

When pressed on the issue of teacher pay, he added, "I want teachers to make a lot more. I want teachers to make what TV anchors get paid too."

"It makes me angry, very angry right now," fifth grade teacher Elizabeth Whisenant of Wake Forest said. Whisenant is one of those state employees who saw no extra money this year.

"Someone had said to me recently that the farther away you get from children, the more you get paid," she said.

The liberal think tank North Carolina Policy Watch first discovered the pay raises.

"What's going on here? It just doesn't make any sense," NC Policy Watch Director of Research and Policy Development Rob Schofield said.

Schofield points out both Diaz and McKillip are in their 20s and served on Gov. Pat McCrory's campaign last year.

"We're talking about some young, very inexperienced people who are just a step above being interns," he said. "And paying them close to $90,000 a year?"

It's something Whisenant can't wrap her head around either as she works multiple jobs this summer, teaching at a science camp and babysitting to make ends meet.

"Here I am, educating children and working my buns off to teach them and educate them and provide everything I can for them, and I am paid not even half of what that person is."

WNCN has reached out to DHHS repeatedly for comment, but has not received a response.

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