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Posted Aug 31, 2011, 9:05 am
Taxpayers are giving Don Cardon a big raise to move from head of the now-defunct state Department of Commerce to president and CEO of the new Arizona Commerce Authority.
On Tuesday, the authority’s board of directors approved a three-year renewable contract that includes $300,000 in base salary that can be increased but not decreased, a target bonus of 25 percent and a one-time signing bonus of $50,000.
Cardon received $183,000 a year as director of the state Commerce Department.
The 17-member board, made up of state business leaders appointed by Gov. Jan Brewer, unanimously approved the package during a conference call despite concerns raised by Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, and House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, who as ex-officio members can’t vote.
“I am thankful for the work that this commission has done,” Tobin said. “I do, however, believe that with the issues facing our state today, this compensation package is not one that I can support.”
Pearce called the amount more than taxpayers would consider appropriate.
The package also includes a $1,000-a-month vehicle allowance, six weeks of paid time off a year and a $30,000 supplemental allowance contributed by private donors that will cover benefits not included in Cardon’s state compensation.
Cardon’s spokeswoman, Kristen Hellmer, said he wasn’t available to comment. But she said the authority hired an independent firm with expertise in executive compensation and that it based a salary recommendation on the pay of the heads of similar agencies in states such as Texas, Louisiana, Michigan and Florida.
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“The [authority] and the people who work here are an investment in the state’s economic future, and in order to solicit and hire the best and most talented people, the Commerce Authority needs to offer competitive wages, and that holds true to the CEO level,” Hellmer said.
The Legislature approved creating the Arizona Commerce Authority this year on Brewer’s recommendation. It replaced the state Commerce Department with a public-private entity in which business leaders help attract companies to the state.
Matthew Benson, Brewer’s spokesman, responded to a phone message with an email saying that while the governor is sensitive to the concerns raised by Pearce and Tobin competitive compensation is essential for the Commerce Authority to attract top-quality talent.
He said the success of Cardon and the Commerce Authority would pay dividends to the state in terms of economic development, job recruitment and, ultimately, increased tax revenue.
“The governor has high expectations for the Arizona Commerce Authority,” the email said. “It needs to deliver,” he said.