Arkansas Advocate
Joe Profiri, Arkansas Secretary of the Department of Corrections, left, with Gov. Sarah Sanders. John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate

Arkansas lawmakers on Friday directed $104,000 to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ office to cover the salary of her new adviser, former Corrections Secretary Joe Profiri, for the remaining six months of the fiscal year.

The Arkansas Legislative Council’s Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) subcommittee approved the appropriation Tuesday with some audible dissent, and the full council approved PEER’s report Friday with no dissent.

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Sanders announced Jan. 10 that she would hire Profiri as a senior aide, shortly after the Arkansas Board of Corrections fired him in an ongoing dispute over who has the ultimate authority over the state’s prison system. The board previously suspended Profiri with pay in December.

The board also sued Profiri and Sanders in Pulaski County Circuit Court in December over his decision to proceed with parts of a temporary prison expansion plan without the board’s approval. A judge granted the board’s request for a temporary restraining order, later extended by a preliminary injunction, blocking Profiri from proceeding.

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Profiri’s salary with the governor’s office is $201,699.89 a year, about $8,300 less than he made as Corrections Secretary.

His job description includes “advising the governor on matters involving corrections,” as Sanders’ office has previously stated, Finance and Administration Secretary Jim Hudson told PEER on Tuesday in response to questions from Senate Minority Leader Greg Leding, a Fayetteville Democrat.

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Hudson added that cabinet secretaries already have a responsibility to advise the governor in their areas of expertise. Leding asked Hudson what merited giving Profiri a salary comparable to his previous one when he was still tasked with advising the governor but no longer ran a state agency.

“[With] his career experience in corrections, it’s an appropriate salary for him, and I think the governor’s comfortable with what we’re paying him,” Hudson said.

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Leding was one of several lawmakers to vote against the appropriation.

Arkansas Advocate is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arkansas Advocate maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sonny Albarado for questions: info@arkansasadvocate.com. Follow Arkansas Advocate on Facebook and Twitter.