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Former Commerce Chief Cardon Gets Most of His Performance Bonus

Former state commerce chief Don Cardon is going to get most of his performance bonus even though he quit the agency long before the end of his three-year contract.

Cardon was hired last September at a salary of $300,000, a $50,000 signing bonus, $30,000 for a health and wellness package -- and a promise of $75,000 in incentives. He left earlier this year and agreed to give back that signing bonus, minus taxes paid. But Gov. Jan Brewer signed off on giving Cardon more than $60,000 of that incentive. Press aide Matthew Benson said his boss believes it was justified.

"That performance bonus was established according to the formula based on the specific performance benchmarks for jobs brought into the state and capital investment," Benson said.

But Serena Unrein of the Public Interest Research Group said that bonus is being paid by something called Team ACA. That private group collects money from corporations who are not publicly disclosed and funnels it to the commerce authority.

"They can control, our research showed, up to $150 million in tax credits and grants each year," Unrein said. "And that's a lot of taxpayer money. And we deserve to know how these people are being are being compensated and where that money is coming from so we can make sure that there isn't any sort of chance for corruption or fiscal irresponsibility."

Benson said the authority itself complies with all laws and it's up to Team ACA, headed by Cardon, to decide what to disclose. Cardon did not respond to a request for comment.