Lottery officials named in lawsuit | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lottery officials named in lawsuit

Posted By on Thu, Nov 18, 2010 at 7:31 PM

Bridgette Frazier, a former staff attorney for the Arkansas Lottery Commission, sued the Commission, director Ernie Passailaigue and deputy director Ernestine Middleton in federal court today over her forced resignation Nov. 19, 2009.

Frazier, represented by rising state Rep. John Wallker, alleges that she was fired in violation of her First Amendment rights for expressing concerns about lottery personnel practices to the attorney general's office. She said she was denied due process in her forced termination. She accuses Passailaigue and Middleton of making defamatory remarks about her after her departure. The suit seeks reinstatement, back pay, $500,000 in compensatory damages and punitive damages.

The lawsuit describes a disorderly office, indiscreet conversations about employees and tangled lines of authority. The last year has featured a damning audit of the lottery, legislator unhappiness, wildly improper time-off awards to highly paid employees and other controversies. They tend to lend circumstantial support to Frazier's claims. When she left her $105,000-a-year job, lottery officials left the impression she'd departed for raising questions about merit pay raises. The lawsuit explains that query in much fuller detail. She said the Department of Finance had informed the Lottery Commission about the possibility of merit pay and the need for employee evaluations for Frazier and others. Frazier said she agreed with a supervisor's decision that merit pay wasn't necessary, but that rules required evaluations.

Here's the complaint. Note that Walker describes Passailaigue and Middleton as South Carolina residents, though together they are knocking down between $500,000 and $600,000 a year as top employees of a state agency. Not for this lawsuit alone do you have to wonder how long they'll remain Arkansas residents, nominal or otherwise.

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