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Morning Memo: McCrory administration slanted Medicaid report

McCRORY BOOED IN HIS HOMETOWN: For his 69th birthday party, Charlotte attorney Bill Diehl rented out The Fillmore at the N.C. Music Factory, hired rockers Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and invited around 400 of his closest friends, Jim Morrill reports. Among them: Gov. Pat McCrory.

When the band took a break, Diehl grabbed a mic and introduced McCrory, who was greeted with a loud smattering of boos. It wasn't the first time the former Charlotte mayor -- elected and re-elected seven times -- has heard boo birds in his hometown. In Charlotte, at least, the popular mayor has been a less popular governor. This summer he appeared at a concert at the Bechtler Museum. When he was formally introduced, many in the audience booed.

MUST-READ: For months, members of the McCrory administration have maintained that the state’s Medicaid program is "broken." But in the first of a two-part investigation, North Carolina Health News shows McCrory officials sat on information that would have depicted the state’s much-lauded Medicaid program in a better light. Read it here.

***More from the N.C. Health News story and an important notice to readers below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Les Merritt submits letter of resignation from Ethics Commission

State Ethics Commission member Les Merritt submitted his letter of resignation Friday, addressing concerns about a conflict with his work as a N.C. Department of Health and Human Services contractor.

"I have certainly enjoyed my tenure and consider serving on the Ethics Commission a privilege," he wrote. "The work of the commission is very important and I know all the commission members and staff are honorable people, serving the state of North Carolina for the right reasons.

"In that regard, I do not want even the 'appearance of a conflict of interest' to cast a shadow on the integrity of the commission," he concluded.

Merritt Resignation Ltr 9-27-13.pdf

State names interim Medicaid director

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services named an acting Medicaid director with Carol Steckel leaving the agency.

Sandy Terrell, the Medicaid chief operating officer, will serve in the role as the department searches for a permanent replacement, Secretary Aldona Wos announced Friday. She will start Oct. 11, when Steckel's resignation is effective. "Since 2010, Sandy has been an integral part of the (Division of Medical Assistance) organization, and her role as chief operating officer at Medicaid uniquely qualifies her to assist in this transition," Wos said in a statement.

Steckel announced her departure earlier this week to work for a Florida-based company that wants the state's business.

Morning Memo: Hagan gets opponent; Records show deeper DHHS troubles

KAY HAGAN GETS A FEISTY CHALLENGER: All the attention is focused on the Republicans vying to replace Democrat Kay Hagan in the U.S. Senate. But Hagan, too, will face a primary challenger. The Fayetteville Observer reports that Fred Westphal, a retired educator from outside Fayetteville, plans to make a bid. And he’s mighty sure of his chances. "She doesn’t have a chance against me," Westphal, 76, told The Fayetteville Observer. "She won’t get the party nomination."

INTERNAL EMAILS SHED MORE LIGHT ON DHHS TROUBLES: The state agency overseeing the new computer system that sends money to health professionals treating poor patients downplayed problems with the software even as complaints rolled in to Gov. Pat McCrory’s office from doctors, dentists and medical equipment companies.

Correspondence obtained by The News & Observer from McCrory’s office show that complaints were flowing in from frustrated health care providers, with some appealing directly to his chief of staff and his lawyer, by the end of July. Those complaints were passed on to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the system. On Aug. 5, DHHS sent out the news release "NCTracks is on Track."

***Read more from the DHHS records and get a full political news roundup below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Rove to raise money for Tillis; Harris plans statewide tour

GOP strategist Karl Rove will headline a series of fundraising events for U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis in mid-November, an aide to the former Bush administration official confirmed to Dome. The details are still being finalized but Rove and Tillis are likely to hit events across the state, Tillis allies said.

Next week, Tillis will attend a reception hosted by Rove’s political action committee, Crossroads GPS, which spent big money in the 2012 election. Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan used Rove as a foil in one of her recent fundraising pitches -- showing Rove’s close link to Tillis may help both sides.

As Tillis focuses on raising money his latest rival Mark Harris begins a high-flying announcement tour for next week. Read about it and more North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: GOP Senate hopefuls take hard line on defunding Obamacare

North Carolina’s Republican U.S. Senate candidates are taking a hard line on federal budget negotiations – a position that puts them at odds with the state’s lone GOP senator, Richard Burr.

Four Republican candidates said Monday they support efforts to defund the federal health care act, apparently even if those efforts lead to a government shutdown. Their comments came the same day state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger announced he won’t join those running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Kay Hagan.

***Read more from the GOP candidates -- reaction to Berger's decision -- below in today's Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Berger to make decision; Wos as a mentor to McCrory

MORAL MONDAYS IN THE FOOTHILLS: The North Carolina NAACP is taking its protest of legislative action to Yadkinville. The civil rights group said its Moral Monday and the Forward Together Movement will be at the Yadkin County Courthouse at 7 p.m. Monday.

The NAACP has been protesting actions by the Republican-dominated General Assembly for weeks. The group says it's concerned about what it calls attacks on teachers, unemployed workers, immigrants and voting rights, among other issues. Read more here.

TODAY IN POLITICS: Other political headlines to expect: Senate leader Phil Berger announces whether he will run for the U.S. Senate on Monday. Gov. Pat McCrory will take his message outside the capital city again, traveling to McAdenville for a tour at Pharr Yarns Facility and then visit Belmont for a business roundtable at the String Bean on Main Street.

***Read a dissection of the Aldona Wos profile below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Legislative health and human services October meeting

Legislators may get their questions about state Department of Health and Human Services salaries, buggy computer systems, and Medicaid spending answered at a meeting scheduled for Oct. 8.

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services has scheduled an all-day meeting to talk about department goings on. The agenda's not out yet, but there's no shortage of topics to cover. The morning session will be a joint meeting with the Information Technology oversight committee. Health oversight members will have DHHS administrators to themselves in the afternoon.

Democratic legislators are keen to talk about salaries, raises, personal services contracts, and the problems with computer systems that pay Medicaid claims and provide food assistance. Republicans have shied away from complaints about salaries, but they want to know what's going on with computer systems that have frustrated doctors and local services workers, and have left poor people searching for food.

Morning Memo: McCrory defends DHHS, eyes S.C. business

McCRORY DEFENDS WOS: Gov. Pat McCrory has full confidence in Dr. Aldona Wos, the woman he chose to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, even while making a point to say he can not micromanage their hiring decisions. Democratic legislators are calling for a state audit of the department and an investigation into its hiring practices after several media reports over high-paying jobs going to former members of the governor's campaign staff, donors and an employee of Wos' husband. Read the story here.

DON'T FORGET: Inaugural Pints & Politics event today:The N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation, a business-backed political research firm, is putting a little fun into the state capital’s favorite sport: politics. The inaugural Pints & Politics event will include discussion from Chris Sinclair, a Republican strategist at Cornerstone Solutions, and Tom Jensen, the head pollster at Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, about election outcome predictions. Free event but RSVP requested or 919-614-0520. Details: 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19, Natty Greene’s Brewing, 505 W. Jones St., Raleigh

*** Welcome to Dome's Morning Memo.

DHHS makes clear who fired former head of oral health program

Who Fired Dr. King?

The state Department of Health and Human Services wants to make clear who fired Dr. Rebecca King, former head of the state's oral health program.

It was Danny Staley, acting director of the Division of Public Health, who penned the letter of dismissal. Spokesman Ricky Diaz took issue with a Wednesday article that said DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos fired King.

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