A dispute has erupted between the State Auditor and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Auditor Mike Foley criticizes the Department of Health and Human Services for sending letters to more than 500 state employees, informing them the Auditor’s office is reviewing their disciplinary records.
Foley asserts the review is a routine part of an audit.
“They’ve gotten all bent out of shape over that,” Foley tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “Now, they’ve issued a letter to 500 and some employees, getting people stirred up deliberately, needlessly; total waste of money. But HHS is famous for that. They’re good at wasting money.”
DHHS sent letters to 563 employees informing them that the Auditor’s office has copies of their personnel files.
DHHS CEO Kerrey Winterer says he simply thought employees should know someone was looking at their records.
“I’m not intending to have a war with the Auditor or have any kind of dispute with the Auditor,” Winterer tells KLIN. “All we did was send a letter to our employees advising them that someone outside the Department of Health and Human Services now has a copy of their employee file.”
Foley contends the action taken by DHHS is unusual and might well be tied to his run for governor. Foley, a Republican, has stated that he will take DHHS apart brick-by-brick if elected.
“I think this was politically motivated on the part of HHS officials,” Foley states. “I think they’re very concerned about the changes that I’m going to make at that agency; the reforms that I want to bring in at that agency. And, they’re trying to make some political noise about all of that. I’m not interested in playing that game.”
Winterer insists DHHS isn’t playing a game and, while the department has never taken such action in the past, that shouldn’t lead to wrong conclusions.
“You can look at it as a change in policy in terms of communicating with our own employees,” Winterer says. “Whether we did it or not previously I don’t know is necessarily relevant, because we now will have chosen to handle it in this fashion.”
Winterer denies his action had anything to do with Foley’s gubernatorial aspirations.
Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this article.