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Pay hike could make DHHR hire easier

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Legislation passed Saturday could result in new leadership for the Department of Health and Human Resources, the bill's lead sponsor said Monday.

Under the bill (HB2825), the salary for the next secretary of DHHR will go from the $95,000 set in state law up to a maximum of $175,000.

House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, said the current salary makes it difficult to recruit candidates with significant health-care and administrative expertise to oversee the department.

"If you've got a company with 6,000 employees and a $4 billion budget, your CEO should be compensated fairly significantly," Perdue said. "That's the way I feel about DHHR."

Besides being a massive agency with myriad responsibilities for overseeing health care and welfare services statewide, the DHHR has been beset with problems with bidding irregularities, employee grievances and lawsuits, poor conditions at state hospitals and other issues.

Former DHHR staff counsel Rocco Fucillo has been serving as acting secretary since June 2012. His name was not submitted by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for confirmation by Senate on Saturday, leaving the position of DHHR secretary open.

Perdue said the Tomblin administration has been recruiting a permanent DHHR secretary, but said the low salary has been a sticking point.

However, he said the administration did not ask for the legislation to increase the salary.

"You've got to have someone that has strong administrative knowledge and a strong understanding of policy," Perdue said of a new DHHR secretary. "This should help in terms of hiring someone with a little broader vision, and the ability to implement that vision."

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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