Under the Dome: Mark Robinson’s wife closing nonprofit, but has review with DHHS

Welcome to your governor’s race edition of our Under the Dome newsletter. I’m Dawn Vaughan, Capitol bureau chief at The News & Observer.

The families of candidates, and in this case the gubernatorial candidates, Attorney General Josh Stein and Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, generally are not on the radar of voters. But Robinson’s wife, Yolanda Hill, is getting attention because of the impact of her nonprofit on her husband.

Let’s bring you up to speed and tell you what’s new:

As mentioned in a previous newsletter, Hill cited Robinson’s campaign in telling clients she was closing down the nonprofit Balanced Nutrition Inc., which is funded with a contract under the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The Assembly first reported. And Robinson wrote in his memoir about the family business doing well enough that he could run for lieutenant governor. Balanced Nutrition has been the subject of criticism on conservative website The Daily Haymaker since last year.

WUNC reported this week that DHHS is reviewing Balanced Nutrition’s financial issues and plans for a meeting to review the issues did not occur.

DHHS told The N&O that the agency sent notices to Balanced Nutrition in March and April to notify the nonprofit about a “routine compliance review” the week of April 15, which did not happen. The meeting was rescheduled and is now set for April 22. DHHS says that these are “normal federal requirements in regard to scheduled compliance reviews.”

Public records obtained from DHHS by The N&O and other media outlets document Hill’s six-figure salary leading the nonprofit, which worked with the Child and Adult Food Care Program, serving as a link between child care centers and the federally funded food program.

DHHS told The N&O that the agency received notice on April 2 from Balanced Nutrition that it would end its agreement as a sponsoring organization under the Child and Adult Care Food Program as of April 30, so DHHS has been “working to ensure a smooth transition for the facilities sponsored by the institution.”

In a letter dated April 15 obtained by The N&O, attorney B. Tyler Brooks wrote to DHHS that “Balanced Nutrition and Mrs. Hill respectfully decline to meet with NCHHS officials without the presence of counsel. Furthermore, we are not available this week.”

In another letter on April 16, an attorney for DHHS wrote that “the scheduled compliance review “would still be conducted. The compliance review is retrospective and Balanced Nutrition, Inc. is bound by legal and contractual obligations as a recipient of funds to the rules and regulations” of the food program.

According to other records obtained by The N&O, DHHS arrived at Balanced Nutrition, which is in Greensboro, on April 17 and left after Hill told them she would not meet without counsel. In a letter recounting the exchange, DHHS’ program manager wrote that Hill “refused to participate in the compliance review due to the fact that your attorney was not present.” DHHS offered April 22 as the “final” time for the review. Brooks, the attorney for Hill, replied that they would be there.

On April 18, Hill told WRAL-TV that she felt like she was “targeted from the beginning” by DHHS because of her husband. Robinson has not worked for Balanced Nutrition, which Hill founded in 2015, since taking office.

Stay informed

Don’t forget to follow our Under the Dome tweets and listen to our Under the Dome podcast to stay up to date. Our legislative preview episode posts Monday morning. I’m joined by state politics reporter Avi Bajpai and investigative reporter Tyler Dukes.

Be sure to also mark your calendars for our “Under the Dome: Live!” free event on April 30 at the N.C. Museum of History. We’ll do a live recording of Under the Dome with Republican Sen. Vickie Sawyer and Democratic Sen. Natalie Murdock. Register at underthedomelive.eventbrite.com.

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