PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After resigning amid heavy criticism of his handling of the job, former Housing Secretary Josh Saal was granted a state contract to assist in the transition of the department.

The three-month contract says Saal will be paid $105 an hour for at least 20 hours per week, and the state will also cover his health insurance. The contract comes as former Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor takes over as the new housing secretary.

Pryor told 12 News on Thursday he wasn’t concerned with the perception of bringing Saal back after his unceremonious exit.

“It’s important that coming into this job was a rather abrupt transition, that coming into this job I understand where things are, and what steps have previously been taken, and how I can pick up the ball and run with it,” Pryor explained.

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said he didn’t know beforehand that Saal would be awarded a state contract.

“That’s the governor’s appointment, that’s a question you should really ask the governor,” Ruggerio said. “I was not informed of it beforehand so I’m at kind of a loss to explain what went on over there.”

Ruggerio added he hoped Pryor moves more quickly on using the millions of dollars allocated for housing in the state budget. The state had spent about 6.6% of its housing budget as of January.

“I mean, Housing has been screaming for years that they haven’t had the money,” Ruggerio said. “No, we’re providing the money and they’ve been relatively slow in getting the money out to the public.”

Saal resigned in January after serving for about a year in the cabinet-level position which paid about $190,000 per year.

Lawmakers and advocates were critical of Saal’s handling of the homelessness crisis in the state. He also faced backlash after missing a deadline to submit a data report on Rhode Island’s housing situation.

When asked why they wanted to use Saal as a consultant after he faced so much criticism, Pryor said he wasn’t “here to judge anyone’s tenure.”

According to Pryor, he and Gov. Dan McKee decided together to bring Saal back, calling it a “fine idea.”

“I don’t think our primary concern should be either perception or politics, I think it ought to be ‘what will move the needle on helping Rhode Islanders of every income level find housing at affordable levels,'” Pryor said.

Pryor said Saal is briefing the department on the status of projects and examining legislation, as part of his duties under the new contract.

Read Saal’s new contract here: