Favorite

That lottery salary? Hold your fire 

Paying $324,000 to a guy from South Carolina to start up and run our lottery is not something I'm eager to take the lead in defending.

But I don't mind explaining it.

Certain Arkansas legislators got rightfully worried that designing this lottery was a daunting undertaking and that they needed good help. They scoured the region for someone positioned and qualified to advise and assist, settling on Ernie Passailaigue of South Carolina.

He was a state legislator of the conservative Democratic variety, as were they, who had proposed and designed that state's lottery as a state senator, then been hired to get it launched and run, subsequently succeeding.

Passailaigue turned out to be an amiable sort who developed over-the-phone friendliness with a couple of Arkansas people who were soliciting his help. So, as a personal favor without any pay and because South Carolina is far enough away from Arkansas that he wouldn't be competing with himself, he helped legislators draw our complicated bill.

He advised against the state's giving up sovereign immunity regarding the lottery, lest the lottery spend entirely too much time in circuit court. He advised against exemptions for the lottery from the Freedom of Information Act, explaining that, once a lottery gets up and running, it's not very interesting to reporters and you merely invite needless suspicion by trying to insulate it from standard public disclosures.

Then the new Lottery Commission invited Passailaigue to attend its frst inaugural retreat. He made quick, easy and strong personal connections, especially with Lottery Commission Chairman Ray Thornton and Commissioner Joe White of Conway.

He especially impressed them by saying Arkansas was like South Carolina in that there was a lingering cultural aversion to in-your-face lottery promotion and that the new lottery needed to be constructed and executed with sensitivity to that.

There were moments in which Thornton, White and others allowed themselves to wonder whether Passailaigue might be interested in running our lottery. But that seemed out of the question.

It was pretty well understood that the Commission would hire Tom Courtway. He is beloved by state legislative insiders. He is well-educated and competent, a tax lawyer schooled at Georgetown. He is an uncommonly hard worker experienced in leading state agencies through storms, having been interim director of the state Education Department and now, of course, interim president of the University of Central Arkansas.

But Courtway, tired and sensitive to criticism, withdrew from consideration.

Thornton and White, acting independently, dealt with their disappointment by calling Passailaigue. They inquired as to whether he might possibly, under any circumstance, be interested in this job.

He said to let him think about it, but there was something he needed to be candid about. This was going to be hard work and he had a good life in South Carolina, where, at 61, he had a grandchild on the way. He would be spending probably six months working hard in Arkansas while his family remained in South Carolina, preparing for the move. He'd want generous remunerative consideration for that.

Here's the rationale for the salary: Had we hired Courtway, competent but without a day of lottery experience, we would have needed consultants costing much more than Passailaigue. With Passailaigue we have a chance to avoid that expense and get this lottery running by November, two months earlier than with Courtway, most likely.

Legislators and other insiders are telling me this: A salary of $324,000 will pale against tens of millions of dollars in annual net proceeds for scholarships we likely wouldn't have reaped otherwise.

Criticize if you must, but bear in mind that, in time, the criticism will be more valid (if the lottery fails) or moot (if the lottery succeeds to the extent insiders are thinking it might).

Passailaigue is on the spot. And he's going to be paid well in the short term for being on the spot. And this is an investment we will be able to quantify strictly before too very long.

 

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by John Brummett

  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • Can we talk? Can we get anywhere?

    Dialogue is good. It would be even better if someone would venture off script every once in a while.
    • Sep 21, 2011
  • More »

Most Shared

Latest in John Brummett

  • Gone to the DoG

    We're now longer carrying John Brummett's column in this space.
    • Oct 12, 2011
  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31  

Most Viewed

  • Gratitude

    Now, more than ever, I find myself thankful for those who resist. Those who remind us of our higher common values. The fact-checkers and truth-tellers. Those who build bridges in communities instead of walls to segregate. The ones who stand up and speak out against injustice.
  • A difference

    How low can a columnist go? On evidence, nowhere near as low as the president of the United States. I'd intended to highlight certain ironies in the career of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The self-anointed moral arbiter of the Senate began her career as a tobacco company lawyer — that is, somebody ill-suited to demand absolute purity of anybody, much less Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
  • Money talks

    Democratic candidates face a dilemma in Arkansas. To take on the GOP members who are firmly entrenched in the state Legislature and Congress, they will need lots of money and lots of votes. The easiest way to get more votes is to spend more money. Obscene amounts of money. And thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and President Trump's judicial appointments, this will be our reality for a long time. The six Republicans who make up our congressional delegation have stopped pretending to care about their constituents. They vote in line with the interests of big corporations and lobbyists. They know what side their bread is buttered on.
  • Silly acts, good law

    It was unavoidable that the struggle by sexual minorities to gain the equal treatment that the Constitution promises them would devolve into silliness and that the majestic courts of the land would have to get their dignity sullied in order to resolve the issues.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: A difference

    • Gillibrand is a tough chick, and she knows she is a political whore, like 95%…

    • on December 14, 2017
  • Re: Cats and dogs

    • I miss my wolves. It has been over five years since the last of my…

    • on December 12, 2017
 

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