Editorial: Malone shouldn’t wait for more mistakes

January 17, 2014 

State Rep. Chris Malone said in a recent interview that he favors giving Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Vos more time to fix problems within the monstrous agency. And, though he hedges enough to point out that he could be singing a different tune this time next year, we think he ought to do more than just wait it out.

The distribution of private health information for nearly 50,000 children to the wrong addresses was not a problem that started under someone else’s watch. It was not her predecessor’s decision to hire two political cronies of the governor to take high-paying jobs within that agency. Nor was it anyone else’s decision to issue expensive personal services contracts to friends and allies without conducting a thorough, public search for the best possible person for those jobs. And most importantly, it was not an inherited problem that made her shut herself off from the public, including the news media, and surround herself with bodyguards to keep people from asking pesky questions of her. It seems as if the only time she’s willing to speak publicly is when she’s forced to by legislators who have to drag her to hearings. Even Malone expressed dissatisfaction with the answers he got from the agency when he asked about the latest misstep.

Malone is a Republican. Wos was appointed by a Republican Governor. So we understand his loyalties. And DHHS is the largest agency in state government, so we appreciate the fact that making significant changes to an organization that size can be time-consuming and, perhaps, a bit messy.

But waiting a year to see where things stand, we believe, could be costly. It could hurt those who need – really need – the services the agency provides. We’re talking about the desperately poor, the mentally ill, children, people who see doctors that accept Medicare and Medicaid. And the list goes on.

Asking them to wait a year to be served by an agency that can’t get its act together spells doom for some people. It’s take Wos a year to create all the messes that have been made and reported. It will take her successor even longer to right the ship because that person will first have to undo the damage Wos has made. Then they can start to tackle some of the same problems Wos was supposed to have addressed from Day One in her office.

Malone can do his constituents a service by calling now for Wos to step down and insisting that the governor appoint someone who will take politics and political gamesmanship out of the process.

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