story by Roby Brock and Jason Tolbert
Arkansas Lottery Director Ernie Passailaigue has resigned and the commission has accepted his offer to leave effective Oct. 7.
Passailaigue was credited with one of the fastest start-ups of a lottery in the nation, but his tenure was marred by a variety of controversies ranging from financial mismanagement to tenuous political relations with the state legislature.
Lottery spokeswoman Julie Baldridge will serve as interim director while a successor is pursued. The commission 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.
Passailaigue gave no explanation but the numerous missteps over the first two years of the lottery upstart has to have been a factor. 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 higher of two high paid lieutenants from South Carolina, their combined salaries totaling $750,000. It was marked by numerous high profile missteps including a scalding audit report on their financial problems in their first year of operations and most recently a controversial vender contract based on a percentage of revenue.
"We are so pleased to have been able to have (Passailaigue) for the past two and a half years," said Diane Lamberth, chair of the Arkansas Lottery Commission.
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."