Passailaigue survives firing attempt | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Passailaigue survives firing attempt

Posted By on Thu, Dec 9, 2010 at 2:34 PM

The Arkansas Lottery Commission has been meeting all day on its poor audit and fiscal issues. Now the commission has gone into executive session, which, by law, can only be done to consider "employment, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining or resignation of any public officer or employee."

Ernie P. has been a bad boy. But how bad?

He left the closed meeting without talking to reporters.

UPDATE: They're back and Ernie still has his job.

In the public meeting after the session, Commissioner Derrick Smith moved that the commission follow an evaluation process for Passailaigue approved earlier in the day. The motion passed 6-2, with Commissioners Ben Pickard and Joe White (the two commissioners who voted earlier in the year to fire the lottery director) the only "no" votes. White told reporters after the meeting that while in executive session, he made a motion to fire Passailaigue. The motion was seconded, but was not voted on because of Smith's substitute motion. Smith told reporters he felt the commission should use the process they adopted, rather than take immediate action.

More to come.

From Gerard:

The Lottery Commission met for hours Thursday to discuss the recent legislative audit findings and what lottery officials planned to do about them. The mounting tension between Lottery Commissioner Ben Pickard and Lottery Director Ernie Passailaigue was evident early on. Passailaigue started off the regular commission meeting by referring to the lottery as a business under a "government umbrella." Commissioner Pickard interjected quickly saying, "Excuse me, this is a state agency."

Passailaigue was defending the hiring of Phillip Miley, the lottery's chief fiscal officer. Pickard pointed out that the state accounting board does not list Miley as an active, or inactive, CPA, but Miley included the title of CPA in his resume. Passailaigue said that being a CPA was not a prerequisite to handle the day to day accounting of the lottery. Pickard questioned legislative auditors present at the meeting as to whether the lottery had qualified personnel in place to deal with the problems brought up by the audit. Andy Babbitt, with legislative audit, said that was a question better left to lottery management, although he did admit that there did not appear to be a working knowledge of governmental accounting on display in the lottery's financial reports.

The commission also addressed other issues brought to light by the audit including the way the lottery accounts for travel expenses and reimbursements. The audit found that Passailaigue had submitted travel reimbursement requests that lacked proper approval. In a document titled "Arkansas Lottery Commission 2010 Audit Corrective Action Worksheet" distributed at the meeting, the lottery staff said they had changed travel policies to adhere to the Department of Finance and Administration's regulations. Overnight travel must now be approved in advance and David Barden, the lottery's vice president of gaming, will now serve as travel secretary for the agency. The corrective action worksheet laid out actions that needed to be taken by the lottery to comply with state law and a tentative timeline for completing those actions.

The commission also voted to approve an evaluation tool (this is just a sample document) to evaluate Passailaigue's performance. This is the document that the commission later voted to follow. After the meeting, Commission Chairman Diane Lamberth said the commission would probably begin their evaluation of Passailaigue sometime in January, around the time of the commission's next scheduled meeting. Commissioner Smith said he was not sure if the evaluation would be complete by that time, but it would be complete soon.

"I think the Arkansas public, the general assembly and the commission, quite frankly, are probably losing any tolerance for mistakes. Whether there's an exact date on that I'm not sure, but soon," Smith said.

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