OKLAHOMA CITY - Patrice Douglas, former Edmond mayor and corporation commissioner, was named the new CEO of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Tuesday afternoon.
In a statement, the chair of the TSET Board of Directors, Jim Gebhart, said “Her experience in business, banking, community service and building partnershps across the state will be a valuable asset as we work together to build a brighter, healthier, more prosperous future for Oklahoma.”
But it’s the salary that Douglas will be making that is drawing some criticism.
“It looks bad on its face to go from $120,000 to a $250,000 overnight,” said State Minority Leader, Scott Inman.
The current executive director of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Fund makes $120,000.
The new CEO position pays a quarter of a million dollars.
“You have republican legislators saying that teachers don’t need to have more money because we have a low cost of living. To turn around and increase the salary for a director position at TSET from $120,000 to $250,000 seems inexcusable,” said Inman.
And Inman says what makes it even worse is the political connections of several of the people who were candidates for the job.
The governor’s chief of staff, Denise Northrup and Speaker of the House, Jeff Hickman were also names linked with the job.
“It sorta tells folks out there it’s not necessarily a matter of how qualified you are for the job but a matter of who you know and that looks bad,” said Inman.
“It’s definitely time to reassess the spending priorities at TSET and where those dollars go,” said Johnathan Small, president of Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.
Small says in this economy, more of TSET’s money should be going directly to health care.
“Nursing homes needed just ten million dollars so they could remain open. Well TSET blows through that you know multiple times over during a fiscal year,” said Small.
Gebhart defended the new CEO’s salary in a statement.
“The salary range is in line with what was recommended by multiple executive search firms interviewed during the selection process and in line with national standards,” said Gebhart.
On June 16th, Governor Mary Fallin issued a statement expressing her disapproval for the CEO's new salary and the failure to file necessary paperwork.
Fallin instructed Health and Human Services Secretary Terry Cline to deny the proposed salary.
“This salary sends the wrong message when our state is facing a difficult economic and budget climate. These are public trust funds, and the public will lose trust in this important agency if this salary takes effect.” the Governor said.