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NC gubernatorial race: DHHS investigation into Robinson’s wife’s nonprofit

NC Republican Lt. Governor Mark Robinson takes the stage on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 after winning the primary for governor. His wife, Yolanda Hill, stands behind him on stage.

Charlotte Observer



RALEIGH

Welcome to your governors race edition of ours Under the dome newsletter. I am Dawn VaughanCapitol bureau chief at The News & Observer.

The families of the candidates, and in this case the gubernatorial candidates, the attorney general Jos Stein and Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, are not typically on voters’ radar. But Robinson’s wife, Yolanda Hillis gaining attention because of her nonprofit’s impact on her husband.

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As mentioned in a previous newsletter, Hill cited Robinson’s campaign in telling clients she was closing the nonprofit Balanced Nutrition Inc.which is financed with a contract under the NC Department of Health and Human Services. The General Assembly has reported for the first time. And Robinson wrote in his memoirs that the family business did so well that he was able to run for lieutenant governor. Balanced Nutrition has been the subject of criticism since last year on the conservative website The Daily Haymaker.

WUNC reported this week that DHHS is reviewing Balanced Nutrition’s financial issues and that plans for a meeting to discuss the issues have not taken place.

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

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

DHHS told The N&O that the agency received notice from Balanced Nutrition on April 2 that it would be ceasing operations agreement as a sponsoring agency under the Child and Adult Care Food Program as of April 30, DHHS has “worked to ensure a smooth transition for the agency-sponsored facilities.”

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

In another letter dated April 16, a DHHS attorney wrote that “the planned compliance review” would still be conducted. The compliance review is done retroactively and Balanced Nutrition, Inc. As a recipient of funds, it is bound by legal and contractual obligations 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 located in Greensboro, on April 17 and left after Hill told them she would not meet without counsel. In a letter describing the exchange, the DHHS program manager wrote that Hill “declined 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, Hill’s attorney, responded that they would be there.

On April 18, Hill told WRAL-TV 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 informed. Our legislative preview episode will post Monday morning. I am accompanied by a state politics reporter Avi Bajpai and investigative journalist Tyler Dukes.

Be sure to mark your calendar for our “Under the Dome: Live!” free event on April 30 at the NC Museum of History. We’ll be doing a live taping of Under the Dome with Republican Senator. Vickie Sawyer and Democratic Senator. Natalie Murdock. Register at underthedomelive.eventbrite.com.

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Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan is the Capitol Bureau chief for The News & Observer and leads coverage of the North Carolina legislature and executive branch, with a focus on the governor, General Assembly leadership and the state budget. She has received the McClatchy President’s Award, NC Open Government Coalition Sunshine Award and several North Carolina Press Association awards, including for politics and investigative journalism.