Perdue's recent hires questioned

RALEIGH Some wonder if the hires are the best way to spend money when state agencies are being asked to cut back.

Gov. Perdue has created two positions with salaries totaling almost $216,000 a year.

Although the hires are being questioned, Perdue says she's making the right choices for the state.

One position is with the DOT and the other position oversees how N.C. will spend billions of dollars from the federal stimulus package.

"It seems a little odd to be creating new jobs, six-figure jobs or in that range, when state government knows it's going to have to scale back when it's facing budget shortfalls," Mitch Kokai of the John Locke Foundation said.

Ted Vaden will serve as deputy secretary for communication for the DOT and Dempsey Benton will serve as the deputy of the Office of Economic Recovery & Investment.

"It seems like an odd move to decide we need to have someone who can help us with PR," Kokai said in reference to Vaden's appointment. "I'm sure they already have people at the DOT working in PR. And we need to have someone to help us learn how to spend money."

But supporters say Benton is the right person for a necessary job. One of those supporters is House Minority Leader Paul Stam.

As for the DOT position, he's not no sure.

"I have reservations about the new appointment at DOT," Stam admitted. "What DOT needs to do, transportation, is start building highways. They don't have a communication problem. They have a highway problem."

As for Gov. Perdue's stance on the issue, she says she's not trying to defend her decisions.

"I don't try and defend the decisions I'm make," Perdue said. "I'm trying to make the right decisions for the people of North Carolina."

Perdue says her budget director, who is dealing with a huge deficit, doesn't have time to focus on the stimulus money.

The Governor also believes Benton is the best fit to oversee incoming stimulus money.

"I needed a focused, direct, bold leader to manage this stimulus money and the opportunities we can grow," Perdue said.

And she defends Vaden's appointment as well.

He'll make about $117,000, while Benton will make $98,000.

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