Arizona Governor Doug Ducey Gives Lavish Pay Raises to Chosen Positions

About one-third of the top positions for Arizona state agencies received a boost in pay for 2015, with many of Governor Doug Ducey's new hires now getting paid substantially more than their predecessors.

Arizona state employees received no general base-pay increase for 2015, and nationally, Americans saw wages increase by about 3 percent. But paychecks increased for Arizona's top agency positions by an average of nearly 12 percent in 2015, a wage comparison shows.

Twenty-eight of 92 Arizona state agency director positions received increases in 2015, while only four salaries went down, according to public records obtained by New Times from the Arizona Department of Administration. (See spreadsheet image below.)

Fifty-seven of the top positions saw no change in salaries — these mostly involved positions that retained the same director as the previous year. No salary-comparison information was given for nine agencies, including four with interim directors.

Ducey, a Republican and former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, was elected last year on promises of making state government more efficient and business-friendly. As the salary figures show, Ducey's rewarded many of his new agency heads by boosting pay for their positions.

Eight agency directorships now pay 23 percent to 59 percent more than last year, records show. Examples include:

* Tim Jeffries, the new director of the Department of Economic Security, has a salary of $215,250 — about $45,000 more per year than his predecessor, Clarence Carter. 

* Cara Christ, an M.D., new director of the Department of Health Services, makes $205,005, or about 44 percent more than the previous director Will Humble.

* Frank Milstead, the new director of the Department of Public Safety, earns $175,000, compared to the previous director, Robert Halliday, who earned $139,549 yearly. (Milstead received a salary of $174,636.80 during his last year as Mesa Police Chief, city officials say.)

To meet goals for more effective state government, Governor Ducey had to find "top talent" and compensate them appropriately, says Ducey  spokesman Daniel Scarpinato.

"Some of the individuals he’s hired come from state government, but several have given up significantly larger salaries in the private sector to bring fresh and needed leadership to government," Scarpinato says.

In an October interview, Jeffries — a businessman with no employment experience in social work — told New Times his salary now is lower than he's earned in many years in the private sector. Jeffries' office seemed reluctant to publicize his salary: A request for Jeffries' salary made through DES in October still hasn't been fulfilled, but his salary was among those released to New Times last week by the ADOA.

Jimmy Chavez, director of the Arizona Highway Patrol Association, says giving a boost to the pay of agency heads is Ducey's choice, but he "would have preferred addressing increases in management pay after employees" received raises.

Troopers and other DPS employees received a 2 percent raise two years ago, but nothing last year. The union's pushing for a plan that  boosts DPS pay for everyone by 5 percent each year for the next four years. Even if that happens, he says, trooper pay would still lag nationally by about 10 percent.

Chavez says he talked to Milstead about his pay boost after the new director took his seat in January, telling him that "from a morale perspective, it's not always considered a positive thing."

The figures obtained by New Times didn't have salary-comparison information for nine agencies, including four with interim directors.

CORRECTION: Percentage-change figures have been updated.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern