(The Center Square) – The former secretary of the Arkansas Department of Corrections will make more money that the governor as her advisor, according to state records.
Joe Profiri was fired from his post as earlier this month after a dispute with the DOC board over adding new prison beds.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders hired Profiri shortly after his ouster to serve as an advisor in her administration. His salary is $210,699.89 a year, a spokesperson for the Department of Transformation and Shared Services said in an email to The Center Square.
The governor’s salary is $163.5012.20 annually, according to the state’s transparency website. The highest-paid person in the governor’s office is Gretchen Conger, the governor’s chief of staff that makes $160,000.05 a year. Cortney Kennedy, the governor’s legal counsel, receives $125.999.95 annually.
The Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council approved $104,000 to cover Profiri’s salary for the rest of the fiscal year. Arkansas’ fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.
Sen. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, asked for Profiri’s job description.
“He’s obviously now not doing one of those duties but is essentially making the same amount of money annually,” Leding said. “Are those duties comparable between advising the governor and running the agency as well.”
Jim Hudson, secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration, said the governor made it clear what Profiri would be doing in her public statements.
“He will be advising the governor on matters involving corrections,” Hudson said. “We are all very familiar with the ongoing litigation. But a secretary does two things. He or she runs the department but they also provide advice to the governor. And there’s a lot of needs in terms of criminal justice reforms and corrections so she need that advice and he will be serving her providing that advice.”
Profiri’s salary was passed with some objections in a voice vote after Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, requested a separate vote on the issue.
A judge ruled last week that the Board of Corrections still has the authority to hire and fire the corrections secretary, negating a law passed by lawmakers last year that gave the authority to the governor. The board and Sanders have been at odds for months over the addition of the nearly 500 new prison beds. Sanders and Profiri said the beds are needed to alleviate overcrowding at the state’s county jails.
The board said Profiri did not consider the safety of staff and the inmates when proposing the additional beds.