Sen. McLaurin not OK with salary hikes
by Dawn M. Kurry Richmond County Daily Journal
State Senator Gene McLaurin has spoken out against a recent pay increase for two young employees in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services — pay raises that came during a time of cuts.
On Aug. 16, McLaurin sent a letter to N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos asking her to rescind the recently reported $22,500 and $23,000 salary increases awarded to two of her top aides, both 24 years old with minimal work experience, who happened to work previously on Governor Pat McCrory’s 2012 gubernatorial campaign.
Senator McLaurin said, “These raises were apparently given in April 2013 at a time when the Governor himself admits that he asked executive agency heads in March to implement a salary and hiring freeze. This is not the time to offer $85,000 plus salaries to inexperienced state employees.”
Matt McKillip, 24, is the chief policy officer at the DHHS, making $87,500 a year, and Ricky Diaz, 24, is making $85,000 a year, officials said.
Last week, McCrory defended the salaries and backgrounds of McKillip and Diaz, telling an Associated Press reporter, “Frankly, these two young people are very well qualified and they are being paid for jobs at which that’s the pay rate for that job.”
Rick French, chairman and CEO of the public relations firm French West Vaughan based in Raleigh, said Diaz is making much more than a 24-year-old public relations professional would make at a private agency.
“A $84,000 salary for a 24-year-old is something I can’t even fathom for a PR position,” he said. “They’re just not experienced enough.”
Most PR agency employees at that age are account executives making in the range of $35,000 to $45,000 a year, French said, though corporate public relations staff earn more at the beginning of their careers. Diaz received a 37 percent raise and McKillip a 35 percent raise when they moved from McCrory’s office earlier this year to work at DHHS. McKillip had served as McCrory’s assistant policy director after he was elected until January. Diaz was deputy communications director until April.
Meanwhile, McLaurin can’t justify a pay raise for these men while other salaries across the state have either stayed the same or been cut.
“To make matters worse, DHHS has awarded salary increases totaling $1.7 million since the Governor’s hiring and salary freeze. Other hard-working state employees, teachers, and highway patrolmen have received no pay raise this year. Having spent my career in business and in local government where fair and just compensation systems were adopted and followed, this sends the wrong message to state employees and taxpayers of North Carolina who deserve better than this,” said McLaurin, of Rockingham.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.
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