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State agency hires the wife of Gov. Nikki Haley's chief of staff

The Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism has hired the wife of Gov. Nikki Haley's chief of staff for a contract post administering grants and revamping the agency's online presence.

Agency director Duane Parrish said he hired Kristin Pearson as part of a Cabinetwide restructuring initiative Haley requested. The job is classified as part-time and eligible for no benefits, agency officials said, though contract employees can work as little as a 15 hours a week to as many as 40 hours a week. She will be paid less than $50,000 a year and therefore her salary is not a public record.

Because he is restructuring the agency, Parrish said the post did not exist before Pearson was hired but is a composite of previously existing job duties. Pearson formerly worked in the advertising department at The State.

"Gov. Haley gave us the flexibility to restructure as long as we didn't spend more money," Parrish said.

Pearson's husband, Tim, managed Haley's gubernatorial campaign, transition and now serves as her chief of staff. Tim Pearson is paid $125,000 a year, according to state records, 27.5 percent more than his predecessor was paid by former Gov. Mark Sanford.

Parrish said he was not asked to hire Kristin Pearson.

However, the post was not advertised to the public despite Haley lifting a Sanford-imposed hiring freeze on Feb. 18.

Parrish said he was not required to advertise the position and that the agency had "a ton of resumes on file" from applicants seeking work in the new administration.

"I had enough resumes that I didn't need to advertise," Parrish said.

Kristin Pearson was one of four people interviewed for the position, he said.

Like many state agencies, PRT has had to reduce its work force as state revenues declined by more than $2 billion between 2008 and 2011. PRT spokesman Marion Edmunds said the agency laid off staff last year, but did not have the number of layoffs immediately available. According to State Budget and Control Board data, the agency staff has shrunk to 353 people as of March 22, from 459 in the high-water budget year of 2008.

Democrats said that though Haley campaigned as an outsider who would rid Columbia of its reputation as a political favor factory, she has not governed that way.

"It's a shame the first woman [elected governor] is just one of the good old boys," said Democratic Party chairwoman Carol Fowler.