Last week it was reported that the company handpicked by State Treasurer Dale Folwell for government testing contracts had inaccurately described tens of thousands of its own COVID-19 tests.
Mako, the company chosen by Folwell, claimed to offer COVID-19 “immunity tests” despite the fact that the FDA had made it clear that the presence of antibodies in a person does not necessarily indicate immunity from the virus. Folwell’s personal connection with the company, particularly with sales representative Grant Fitzgerald, seems to have been a factor in the irresponsible decision as he did not speak with other companies before offering Mako the contract.
While this kind of irresponsibility amid a global pandemic is stunning, it’s not out of character for Folwell. In fact, this is just the latest in a long list of careless decisions he’s made that have put the financial well being of thousands of North Carolinians in jeopardy. Let’s look back at some of the others:
- Starting in 2013, Folwell made it his mission to slash the state’s Unemployment Insurance benefits to among the lowest levels in the country. This short-sighted move is coming back to haunt North Carolina families right now as they get less support than workers in neighboring states.
- In 2017, Folwell was careless with the state pension fund. Poor decisions lead to the state losing out on $175 million in gains and long term choices could cost the state about $350 million a year. Later on, Folwell explained his decision by blaming his own ignorance: “I don’t invest in things I don’t understand.”
- In 2019, Folwell’s proposed changes would have caused some State Health Plan members, including teachers and state employees, to lose in-network access to providers, which would most affect people in rural areas who don’t have an in-network provider in their vicinity and lead out of pocket costs to increase drastically.
- This past March, after the Governor issued guidance that those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should distance themselves, Folwell went into his office even though he himself was experiencing symptoms after traveling out of state. He seemingly infected several of his colleagues and potentially others and ended up in the hospital for days without any clear communication on how decisions in the Department of State Treasurer would be made during a historically volatile period in the markets.
- Folwell signed on to a letter pressuring Governor Cooper to ease social distancing guidelines before data indicated it was safe to do so. Despite experiencing the disease himself, Folwell pushed to ease restrictions too early, putting North Carolinians lives at risk.
- Folwell indicated he chose Mako for the testing contract after seeing Grant Fitzgerald, a sales representative for the company, at a Rotary Club gathering. The Fitzgerald family has a strong political voice, Tami Fitzgerald (Grant’s mother) leads a group that opposes abortion and gay marriage. Her daughter, Paige worked as an aide for Folwell when he was a state legislator and is married to former NC Senator Chad Barefoot who is now an advisor at the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank. Chad Price, CEO of Mako, has a history of lying about his qualifications, poor management of his company and Republican political donations.
A long-time partisan legislator, since becoming State Treasurer Folwell has been shredding the credibility and effectiveness of a department that has long drawn bipartisan praise.
Folwell’s tenure as State Treasurer, as well as his work before, shows a pattern of carelessness that has caused lasting damage to state employees’ health care and pensions and put North Carolinians at risk. Making decisions that affect the health of millions of North Carolinians based on ideology and personal ties fits right in with Folwell’s history of reckless and irresponsible choices.