Fitzsimon: A rocky month of May for Gov. Pat McCrory
It hasn’t received much attention with all the shenanigans in General Assembly lately, but May has not been a very good month for Gov. Pat McCrory.
It started promisingly enough with McCrory chosen to give the national Republican weekly radio address, though his remarks were a reworked version of the now stale campaign talking points about customer service and energy policy and leadership.
But then came a report in the News & Observer that his Secretary of Public Safety Kieran Shanahan was moonlighting in his job, still working with clients at his Raleigh firm. And Shanahan won’t say who the clients are, but said the firm is “taking appropriate action to avoid potential conflicts.”
That’s reassuring, that we just have to trust him. Not exactly the transparent administration that McCrory promised.
Not long after the troubling news about Shanahan’s ongoing work with private clients came the bizarre statement by McCrory’s Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos that Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin made the controversial decision that the state would not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and provide health care to 500,000 low-income adults.
State legislative leaders and McCrory made the decision not to expand Medicaid. Goodwin had nothing to do with it. McCrory himself signed the legislation refusing the expansion in early March.
HHS spokesman Ricky Diaz claimed that Wos’ comments were taken out of context, in other words blaming the reporter, Rose Hoban with N.C. Health News, instead of explaining how Wos could be so confused about the biggest decision made about the department that she heads.
But Hoban also posted the audio of Wos’ remarks and there is no context that explained it. She clearly said that it was Goodwin’s decision not to expand Medicaid.
She was either shockingly uninformed or saying something that she knew was false. Either explanation raises serious questions about her ability to lead the department.
It is not the first time Wos has garnered headlines for bizarre statements. She has received attention for her new dress code policy, her incredibly detailed instructions for how HHS employees should format their email signature and most notably for hiring a woman named Diana Lightfoot to head early childhood development efforts.
Lightfoot resigned her post before she started after her work with a nonprofit that was critical of public early childhood programs and her homophobic remarks on Twitter about Hillary Clinton came to light. That was three months ago and there has been no announcement of a new early childhood development director since.
And finally, the revolving door that is McCrory’s press office kept spinning with news this week that press secretary Crystal Feldman was leaving to become the deputy communications director at the Department of Public Safety.
Feldman becomes the third prominent spokesperson for McCrory to leave the press office in the five months McCrory has been governor. It’s hard not to wonder what’s going on exactly in one of the important parts of the Administration, the office that speaks for the Governor every day with reporters.
The News & Observer also reported that folks in McCrory’s press office announced that they would no longer release McCrory’s daily calendar, which was a promise McCrory made during the campaign.
Add it all up - potential conflicts of interest, questionable leadership at Health and Human Services, and a press operation with a spinning door - quite a May indeed and it’s only half over.
McCrory better hope folks keep concentrating on all the insanity in the General Assembly while he tries to right his own ship that is clearly wobbling.
Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch.