As reported in numerous media outlets this morning, Arkansas Lottery Director Ernie Passailaigue tendered his resignation on Friday. The Commission met in a lengthy executive session this morning where they accepted his resignation effective October 7. Passailaigue gave no explanation, but the numerous missteps over the first two years of the lottery’s start-up have to be factors.
Although Passailaigue managed to get the lottery going quickly, that seems to be the primary achievement he can hang his hat on. His tenure began with his controversial high salary and the hire of two high-paid lieutenants from South Carolina — their combined salaries totaling three quarter of a million dollars. Passailaigue’s term was marked by numerous high-profile missteps, including a scalding audit report on their financial problems in the first year of operations, and most recently, a controversial vendor contract based on a percentage of revenue.
Fellow columnist at Stephens Media, John Brummett astutely notes that Passailaigue was equipped and focused on a quick start-up. On the other hand, the day-to-day management of a state agency handling millions of dollars was not his strength.
"We are so pleased to have been able to have (Passailaigue) for the past two and a half years," Dianne Lamberth, chair of the Arkansas Lottery Commission, tells content partner KUAR this morning. She also said that the Commission had voted Julie Baldridge, Director of Public Affairs and Legislative Relations, as interim director. They will began searching for a new director in the coming days. Baldridge will not seek the position as she plans to retire at the end of next year.
As for having their controversial days behind them, Lamberth sounded doubtful.
"I think we will always be controversial," said Lamberth. "I don’t think we will ever have a clean start. I think we will always be controversial because we deal with a lot of money and we will always be scrutinized and we do like the scrutiny."
Here is video from Passailaigue after an executive session from the Lottery Commission in January when they discussed the future of the embattled director.