Monday, September 19, 2011

Ernie Passailaigue resigns as Arkansas lottery director

Posted By on Mon, Sep 19, 2011 at 10:57 AM

ERNIE PASSAILAIGUE
  • ERNIE PASSAILAIGUE
The Passailaigue era is over. The Arkansas Lottery Commission today received the resignation of the founding director of the Arkansas Lottery, Ernie Passailaigue.

Julie Baldridge, who has been chief spokesman for the lottery, will serve as interim director. She said she had no interest in being permanent director. She'll receive no pay increase for the new duties, said Commission Chairman Dianne Lamberth.

Passailague wasn't present when the resignation was announced (my earlier post about Ernie being present with reporters during an executive session was based on what I've since learned was a joking Twitter feed). He turned in his letter of resignation Friday and the commission formally accepted it this morning. Commissioner Steve Faris said it wasn't a surprise. At least one commissioner, Smokey Campbell, said he was surprised. All praised him for getting the lottery off the ground quickly. There were no recriminations and no mention of any buyout (he didn't have a contract) or what would become of other employees he had hired. When asked about the financial details of Passailaigue's departure, Lottery Staff Attorney Bishop Woosley wrote in an email, "He will continue to earn his current salary through his last day at the lottery. Any other leave or other benefits that he may be owed (leave, retirement that is not vested) will be paid out in accordance with standard state policies." His letter was pro forma, thanking commissioners and others for "courtesies" extended over his 2 and a half years in the job.

The resignation was announced after a lengthy executive session, more than 90 minutes. Afterward, it was announced Passailaigue's resignation will be effective Oct. 7. Gerard Matthews will be back with more soon.

One question I'd have for the commissioners is what they discussed in the private session that legally allowed it to be in secret. He wasn't fired or disciplined; promoted or demoted. Perhaps they'll say they talked about the hiring of a new director, though such meetings can't be about process, but only about specific people.

Ernie P. had been credited with a speedy startup of a lottery that met revenue targets for the college scholarship program, but he'd been bedeviled by a variety of operational issues, beginning with his high pay ($324,000) and that paid some others he brought with him from South Carolina, where he'd also been lottery director. David Barden and Ernestine Middleton, vice presidents of the lottery, had worked with him in South Carolina.

Ernie P.'s problems escalated with recent changes on the Lottery Commission. Former legislator Steve Faris and North Little Rock accountant Bruce Engstrom added their voices to some previous commission critics with sharp questions about issues ranging from protection of software to lack of marketing to income streams from various forms of gambling games. A growing issue was the highly favorable deal Passailaigue struck with a major lottery vendor — a percentage take of revenue rather than a fixed price, which produced payments to the vendor much higher than the same vendor gets for a bigger lottery in South Carolina. Over seven years, the advantage will be worth more than $100 million to the vendor, enough to pay for 20,000 $5,000-a-year lottery scholarsnhips. Passailaigue argued that the deal was necessary to insure a speedy startup, though the vendor wasn't being asked to do anything different than what it has done in any number of other states, just do it faster in the first few months.

The lottery began selling tickets in late September 2009. The first college college scholarships went to about 27,000 30,000 students at two- and four-year colleges in the fall of 2010 and a similar number got money this year..

I'd heard word of Passailaigue's impending departure last week and was told it would be done in a way not to create further bad press for the agency. That is, I was led to expect there'd be no buyout or other form payment for the departure. He'd made up for earlier excessive comp time, but Chairman Lamberth said he'd receive no severance or additional pay beyond Oct. 7.

The same people who told me of this coming development suggested I inquire about the possibility that Bill Stovall, former House speaker and top staffer in the House, might be a candidate for the job going forward. I asked him. He said no one had talked to him about it. He did say he'd heard the same rumor. Those who were in the legislature when the lottery was created — Faris and Robbie Wills (now a lottery lobbyist), for example — are not eligible until they've been out of office for two years.

Tags: , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (26)

Showing 1-26 of 26

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-26 of 26

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • Death Row inmates argue to keep stay of execution in place; urge 8th Circuit not to 'rush' analysis

    Early this morning, attorneys for nine Death Row inmates, filed an argument with the 8th United States Court of Appeals contesting the state's effort to override Judge Kristine Baker's order Saturday that halted executions scheduled this month.
    • Apr 17, 2017
  • Federal judge denies execution stay for Don Davis but larger stay continues

    Don Davis, who's been moved to the killing facility of the state prison for killing tonight at 7 p.m. if a stay of execution is lifted in another federal suit, sought a stay in another federal court Sunday, but the request was denied.
    • Apr 17, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • State Police issues statement on Jason Rapert 'threats'

    The State Police have issued a minor clarification in what appears to be an effort to soothe an enraged Sen. Jason Rapert, exposed here as overly excited about both a Conway parking lot question from a constituent as well as some inflammatory Internet rhetoric that he's interpreted as a dire threat on his life. State cops took his reports seriously, they say. But in the end, they found nothing actionable.
    • Sep 15, 2015
  • 2nd guilty plea in bribery case over state mental health services

    Arkansas Business reports here on a federal court filing Wednesday that shows a second person has pleaded guilty to a bribery scheme to help a major contractor of the state Department of Human Services.
    • Sep 17, 2015
  • From Dallas, creative thinking about the Interstate 30 project

    An urban planner in Dallas says freeways are not always the answer. Incorporating some creativity already being used in Dallas and looking at the Interstate 30 project from a broader perspective, here are ideas that Arkansas highway planners have not considered. But should.
    • Nov 6, 2015

Most Shared

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
  • Art bull

    "God, I hate art," my late friend The Doctor used to say.
  • Not justice

    The strongest, most enduring calls for the death penalty come from those who feel deeply the moral righteousness of "eye-for-an-eye" justice, or retribution. From the depths of pain and the heights of moral offense comes the cry, "The suffering you cause is the suffering you shall receive!" From the true moral insight that punishment should fit the crime, cool logic concludes, "Killers should be killed." Yet I say: retribution yes; death penalty no.
  • Judge Griffen writes about morality, Christian values and executions

    Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who blogs at Justice is a verb!, sends along a new post this morning.
  • The Ledell Lee execution thread

    Arkansas Times contributor Jacob Rosenberg is at the Cummins Unit in Grady filing dispatches tonight in advance of the expected execution of Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to death for the Feb. 9, 1993, murder of Debra Reese, 26, who was beaten to death in the bedroom of her home in Jacksonville.

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Most Viewed

  • Lee's lawyer writes about executed man's last hours

    Lee Short, the lawyer for Ledell Lee, the man Arkansas put to death just before midnight last night, posted on Facebook the following letter of thanks for personal support and a bit about Lee's last hours, distributing his possessions and talking to family.
  • State spends $30,000 drug testing TANF recipients for drugs, nabs 2.

    Think Progress reported yesterday that 13 states spent a total of $1.3 million to perform 2,826 drug tests on persons seeking funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Of those nearly 3,000 people required to pee in a cup to get assistance for their families, 369 tested positive.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

Slideshows

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation