(Updated 12:14 p.m.)In a job listing posted earlier this month, the state is offering between $129,000 and $239,000 to lead its Correction Department, Connecticut’s largest state agency measured by number of employees.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced in February his administration would conduct a nationwide search to replace Leo Arnone as correction commissioner. Since Arnone departed in April, the department has been run by interim Commissioner James Dzurenda.
The DOC has around 5,800 employees with most of them being full time workers, according to the Office of Policy and Management. The next largest agency by staff is the Developmental Services Department, which has around 3,600 employees, more than 900 of them are part timers.
Earlier this month the state added the post to its job listings on Administrative Services Department website. The website contains a link to a four page pamphlet advertising the job and soliciting applicants between now and mid-August. The state is offering as much as $239,000 in salary.
Last year, Arnone earned a salary of $156,000 with another $11,000 in longevity payments.
Michael Lawlor, Malloy’s criminal justice adviser, said it’s unlikely that the next DOC commissioner will earn $239,000, but he said the wide-ranging potential salary allows Connecticut to be competitive and attract qualified candidates.
“Keep in mind whoever gets this job is going to be running an almost $600 million operation with almost 6,000 employees,” Lawlor said. “You get what you pay for.”
Lawlor compared correction industry leaders to National Football League coaches who enter the job market for various reasons from around the country. He said it is a position that requires specialized technical skills.
“You really have to know what you’re talking about. If you get the right person in that job, you’ll get some great results. You’ll see less crime and lower recidivism rates,” he said.
He said states need to to offer competitive salaries to attract talented officials. Lawlor said Connecticut could be competing with nearby New York, which is also currently seeking an official to lead its prison system.
Sen. John Kissel, an Enfield Republican whose district includes six correctional facilities, agreed that the state needed a qualified commissioner but said he was “shocked” it may be offering such a high salary. He doubted Connecticut would have a difficult time attracting good candidates.
“At some point the competitive argument just doesn’t wash. There’s people out there struggling to make ends meet on $30 to $40,000 a year,” he said.
Kissel said he was unaware the state was offering more than $200,000 to any of its commissioners.
“I always thought it was out-of-whack that any commissioners are making more than the governor, the chief executive of our state,” he said. The governor earns $150,000 a year in salary.
Regardless of compensation, Kissel said he hopes that the new head of the Correction Department is willing to consider new ideas from both sides of the aisle. He said Arnone, a cousin by marriage, left “big shoes to fill.”
“There’s a variety of opinions [on correctional policies] from both Republicans and Democrats. Having six correctional institutions in my district, I hope whoever the new commissioner is has an open door policy,” he said.
Lawlor said Malloy wants to interview three or four candidates and hopes to make a decision by sometime in September. Although, the governor is looking for candidates from around the country, Lawlor said he expected that Dzurenda, whom he called “very qualified,” would also apply.
Arnone, who was appointed by former Gov. M. Jodi Rell and reappointed by Malloy, was an internal hire. He joined the state Correction Department in 1974 and had worked for the state for close to 40 years when he retired in April.