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Politics & Government

Ex-PA Lawmaker to Lead Welfare Agency

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Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Public Welfare has officially submitted his letter of resignation.  It was widely rumored that Sec. Gary D. Alexander would be stepping down from the post. His last day on the job will be Feb. 15.

The governor’s office said Alexander is leaving state government to pursue private-sector opportunities and spend more time with his wife and children who reside in Rhode Island.

“Secretary Alexander has been a tremendous asset in prioritizing our funding and eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in our welfare programs,’’ said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett. “He has saved millions of dollars in making our programs more efficient and effective, while still allowing us to deliver core services to those who need it most in Pennsylvania.”

Alexander recently came under fire for not moving to Pennsylvania despite holding the job since 2011.  The online news site Pennsylvania Independent reported that from July 2011 through June 2012 Alexander racked up 41,000 miles in state-owned vehicles.  More than half of the distance came in the form of "commute'' trips between Harrisburg and his home in Rhode Island. 

Alexander is credited with creating and implementing a national model for eradicating fraud, waste and abuse. Titled the “Enterprise-wide Program Integrity Initiative,” or EWPI, the program won a 2012 Innovation Award from the Council of State Governments.

Even before Alexander was sworn in in 2011, Rhode Island officials disputed his claims over his fiscal achievements as that state's secretary of Health and Human Services.

During Alexander’s tenure the massive Department of Public Welfare has been plagued with missteps and federal scrutiny over why tens of thousands of children disappeared from Medicaid rolls as he attempted to curb financial waste.

In a written statement Alexander said his decision to resign was not easy.

“I am grateful to Governor Corbett for giving me the opportunity to serve the commonwealth during his tenure. I have been blessed to have been surrounded by a host of remarkable employees at DPW. Their professionalism and commitment to the tasks at hand allowed us to realize great achievements.”

Bev Mackereth, the department’s deputy secretary for the Office of Children, Youth and Families, will take the top spot on an interim basis.  Mackereth has been the deputy secretary since November 2011.