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Top Adviser To Gov. Snyder Becomes State Employee

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Rich Baird (Courtesy photo)

Rich Baird (Courtesy photo)

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) – A top adviser to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder whose $100,000-a-year salary was covered by a nonprofit fund now will be paid by the state.

The Republican governor’s office said that Rich Baird will also get a raise, with his pay now $140,000 annually as transformation manager after becoming a state employee Wednesday.

Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel says the salary is comparable to other senior staff.

Snyder’s New Energy to Reinvest and Diversify, or NERD, fund had been used to pay Baird since January 2011. That’s drawn criticism from Democrats and liberal groups, who have called the fund “secretive” and argued the Wednesday transfer raises more questions.

Wurfel said Baird is now one of the office’s eight allowed unclassified employees, and the switch “just formalizes that role and makes it official.” She told The Detroit News the governor hopes to end “some of the unnecessary distractions” of Baird’s employment arrangement with the change.

Baird is a retired PriceWaterhouseCoopers executive and longtime friend of Snyder. Wurfel said he had been a consultant under contract because his retirement agreement from the accounting firm prohibited him from seeking full-time employment, but Baird recently renegotiated the agreement at Snyder’s request.

Snyder has said he doesn’t know who contributes to the nonprofit fund, which also pays housing and some expenses for Detroit’s state-appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr. The governor said in a deposition earlier this month related to Detroit’s bankruptcy that an independent board handles donations to the fund, which was created to offset the “burdens of government.”

The fund’s name draws on the governor’s campaign description of himself as “one tough nerd.” It can accept unlimited anonymous donations.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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