Who fired Debbie Crane?
In a meeting with newspaper editors Wednesday at the Executive Mansion, Gov. Mike Easley offered a new take on the recent firing of Crane, a former spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services, reports Matthew Eisley.
Easley said Crane’s firing wasn’t his idea, which contradicts the accounts of others involved.
“It wasn’t me,” he insisted.
Crane, 48, was fired March 4 amid the political fallout of a News & Observer investigation into failures of the state’s mental-health system. Her dismissal revolved around the Easley administration’s attempts to persuade Carmen Hooker Odom, the former health and human services secretary, to talk with The News & Observer about what the administration says was her opposition to 2001 mental-health reforms.
Easley on Wednesday said DHHS fired Crane at the urging of the governor’s chief of staff because she had inappropriately talked Hooker Odom out of being interviewed and she failed to produce agency documents.
Read more after the jump.
Dempsey Benton, who succeeded Hooker Odom as DHHS secretary, has said it wasn’t his idea to fire Crane, his agency’s top public information officer. He said she had done a good job.
The firing order, Benton said, came from Franklin Freeman, Easley’s chief of staff.
Freeman has confirmed that — but said he was acting at the governor’s direction.
And Crane, who worked for the state for 18 years, has said Benton told her Freeman told him the governor had “lost confidence in her” and wanted her fired.
But when asked about it Wednesday, Easley said Crane’s firing was Freeman’s idea all along.
"We had the [interview] worked out, and then [Crane] calls up there and essentially told [Hooker Odom] that it was going to be a witch hunt to make her look bad,” Easley said. “And that sent Franklin Freeman off the deep — I mean, not — he just was — he wasn’t going to put up with that.”
Easley said he thought it was common knowledge that Freeman “was fit to be tied.”
“We’re trying to get information out there, and you’ve got a public information officer who is undercutting it, undermining it,” he said. “That’s why Franklin said, ‘I don’t have any more confidence in her.’ He said he wanted her out of there, and that’s what they did. I think it was the right decision. I support what he did.”