The good news for Dr. Eden Wells is she's now a state employee. The bad news for Wells is … she's a state employee.
City Pulse broke the news last week that Wells, the state’s chief medical officer in charge of the medical response to the Flint water crisis, was violating the law by being employed only part time. On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced she’d been bumped up to full time, as is required by the state's Public Health Code.
The move means Wells is no longer splitting time with the University of Michigan, which means a cut of roughly $45,000 in her annual pay, according to public records obtained from both the state and U-M.
When Wells was appointed the state's chief medical executive on May 1, 2015, she was awarded the same arrangement as her predecessor, Dr. Matthew Davis, who also was working part time in violation of the law. Wells was allowed to split her time between her state job and a position at U-M, according to her $200,000-a-year contract.
U-M was paying the state $24,634 quarterly to cover its half of the $200,000 contract — which included her salary, benefits and retirement contributions. However, U-M records show she was also making an additional $45,000 with the school, a salary she won't get now that DHHS Director Nick Lyon announced she would only be a state employee.
"This change was made to more accurately reflect Dr. Wells' work for the department and Michigan residents," said Lyons in a statement.
As of Feb. 1, Wells is a full-time employee making $184,000 a year, roughly what she was making before when the benefits and insurance is taken out of her prior $200,000 contract.
The prior arrangement raised questions when City Pulse reported that she was splitting time as an epidemiology professor and as director of the U-M Medical School of Preventative Medicine Residency Program.
Section 333.2204 of the Public Health Code reads, "The director (of public health) shall receive an annual salary appropriated by the legislature and payable in the same manner as salaries of other state officers. The director's full time shall be devoted to the performance of the functions of the director's office."
"Regardless of the source of pay, Wells is available to the department working fulltime hours for the emergency response in Flint," wrote DHHS spokeswoman Jen Eisner on Feb. 9. "She has been accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is essential to leading our public health efforts.
That status changed on Friday, after more media outlets, including the Detroit Free Press, started raising questions about the arrangement. Lyon issued his statement on Friday that, prior, she was "technically a part-time employee," but a "full-time resource for the department."
U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald confirmed that Wells has taken a leave from U-M and all of her duties have been reassigned to others.
"She is 100 percent a state employee," he said.
Wells' profile has been vastly elevated in recent months after the discovery of increased lead levels found in Flint's municipal water supply, which has caused a spike in lead levels among the city's children and other residents.
The issue has received national attention and Wells has been working "full-time" hours, according to the Snyder administration, assisting in the directing of care to those poisoned by lead, which can result in leaning difficulties and developmental delays.
Wells has also found herself on the front lines of a potential connection between Flint's water source and a Legionnaires' Disease increase in Genesee County and skin rashes reported by those who have bathed in the city's water.