Other than to say that they don't agree with the views expressed in the journal, administration officials have refused to say why Patterson was hired, or what they knew about his background. Patterson had been writing for the journal since 2004, and his writings are accessible on the Internet.
"That information is irrelevant," DPW spokeswoman Carey Miller said Wednesday.
Alexander declined to be interviewed.
The secretary, according to state records, has three other special assistants, who together earn just shy of $300,000 a year. They are: Erik Randolph, who earns $102,221 a year; Brandon Danz, who makes $89,585; and Ronald Semerjian, who makes $99,991.
Miller said the department would not release their resumés as it considers them "part of their personnel file, which is confidential."
Resumes are not in listed in the laundry list of exemptions from the state's Right to Know law. And the Office of Open Records has ruled in a number of cases that they are public records, subject to redaction of certain personal information.
According to interviews and state records, Semerjian came to Pennsylvania last January from Rhode Island, where he ran a printing business. Alexander also hails from Rhode Island, where he headed the welfare department before being recruited by Gov. Corbett.
Danz, who is from Lancaster County, was active in Republican politics in Pennsylvania and in Oregon, and was the state GOP's executive director in the latter.
Randolph's professional background could not be determined Wednesday.
Patterson, according to his biography on the journal's website, had more of a background in research and public policy, having served as a speechwriter in George W. Bush's administration and as the director of policy publications at a conservative Christian group, among other positions.
Patterson began writing for the Family in America in 2004 and was named its editor in 2009. The journal is published by the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society in Rockford, Ill., which opposes abortion, divorce, and homosexuality and advocates for a "child-rich, married-parent" family.
His writings were raising concerns with advocates, particularly as Alexander embarks on an initiative to cut costs and reduce waste at DPW.
Contact staff writer Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934, email@example.com, or @AngelasInk on Twitter.
Inquirer staff writer Amy Worden contributed to this article.