September 19, 2013 — The administration of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has hired an antiabortion-rights conservative organizer to advise the state health department, which is rewriting state rules on abortion, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Margaret "Mardy" Peal began work last month as a senior policy adviser at the state Department of Health and Human Services, at an annual salary of $95,000. Peal has served on the board of the Carolina Pregnancy Center, which opposes abortion, encourages abstinence and emphasizes Christian scripture. Previously, Peal helped organize the conservative Eastern North Carolina Tea Party and donated $1,250 to McCrory's 2012 campaign. In past statements, she has been highly critical of public spending on Medicaid, which is a program she will help oversee in her new role (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/18).
Peal holds a master's degree in health education from East Carolina University, where she served as a hired lecturer for three years in the late 1990s after her graduation. She has not worked in health care since 2002 (Neff/Bonner, Raleigh News & Observer, 9/19).
In a statement about her hiring, DHHS touted her college teaching experience and said she will work with the Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina, which is McCrory's initiative allowing private health insurers to operate the state's health care program for low-income residents (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/18). However, DHHS officials declined to list her specific duties or job description (Raleigh News & Observer, 9/19).
Peal's newly created position was not advertised to other candidates and is exempt from state personnel and hiring rules (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/18). According to the Raleigh News & Observer, she is considered a political hire and serves at the pleasure of the governor.
Mark Gogal, director of DHHS' human resources department, said DHHS is "fortunate to have her as part of the team."
Peal's hiring is the latest in a string of controversial personnel decisions by DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos, according to the News & Observer. The department is under scrutiny for hiring and giving significant raises to former McCrory campaign staffers, contracting with an associate of Wos' husband, and the firing and resignation of two officials in the public and oral health divisions (Raleigh News & Observer, 9/19).