Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith at a recent event in Manchester (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — (Updated Jan. 23) The job description says it’s a “unique management position” for someone “who has a passion for the arts, culture or preserving the historic assets of Connecticut.”

But critics say it would make permanent a position in the Department of Economic and Community Development at a time when the state is facing massive budget deficits.

The job for a Community Development Administrator was posted Dec. 27 and is expected to be filled later this month. It comes with an annual salary of $105,623 to $144,021 and only employees already in the department were allowed to apply.

The creation of the new position may not impact the bottom line for the department, but it would make more permanent one of the positions before Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s term expires.

The Department of Economic and Community Development said in a statement that it’s “been working to make this a classified position for several years now, a task that has been driven by a 20-percent reduction in headcount and the loss of key managers in arts and preservation over the years.”

The department defended its decision to convert the job from that of a political appointee to a classified manager position. A political appointee can be hired or fired on the whim of the governor’s office, while a classified manager is protected.

“Having a permanent leader for the Office of the Arts, the State Historic Preservation Office, and the four state-operated museums is important for several reasons,” the department said in a statement.

“First, these units need continuity and the presence of permanent, skilled leadership. These offices manage millions in federal and state funding and have critical oversight and regulatory functions. We need a permanent manager in place to ensure that our relationships with the federal government and many other state and local partners continue unimpeded, as well as to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the offices and boost employee morale in the process. Frankly, if we don’t create the new role, these offices could be left with no manager if the Executive Assistant position, that now leads the group, were to be changed or eliminated.”

The department said it followed the internal process to create the new position with the Department of Administrative Services and the Office of Policy and Management.

But House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said “it’s wrong.”

She said the state is facing a “blistering deficit” and its hands are tied by the agreement the governor made with the state employee unions, which limits its ability to privatize services and downsize the workforce.

“He was the first person to be critical of Republican governors before him, so he should be the first to dismiss this type of practice,” Klarides said.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said “it’s problematic.”

“Anytime they’re adding new positions that are protected positions it’s troublesome,” Aresimowicz said.  “If they can demonstrate a true reason for it then I’ll consider it, but at this point any new position that’s locked in I think is problematic.”

Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he’s going to express greater concern if there is a proliferation of classified positions over the last 11 months of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s term.

At the same time, if this is a unique situation than he’s less likely to be critical.

But “if this is going to become the norm in all this agencies, then I’m going to have a problem,” Fasano said.

He said he received assurances this was a unique situation.