Findings of a legislative audit and general dissatisfaction in the first two years of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery may have led to its director’s resignation Monday.

It was announced following a closed Lottery Commission meeting Monday morning that the group had accepted Ernie Passailaigue’s resignation, the Associated Press reported.

Julie Baldridge, spokeswoman and legislative relations director, will serve as interim director until the commission finds a new chief. 

Former commission member Joe White, of Conway, first called for Passailaigue’s dismissal in December of 2010.

“I made a motion to fire him on two occasions, and both were unsuccessful,” White said Monday. “I will give him credit for being very knowledgeable about the business of the lottery. He got us started and this has benefitted a lot of students in this state.” 

White said he had numerous disagreements with Passailaigue up until his own resignation from the commission about six months ago.

According to White, at least one other commissioner also called for the former director’s resignation. 

White’s opinion of Passailaigue as a director darkened further after a legislative audit conducted this year revealed close to $100,000 in penalties from the IRS.

“When the report was issued, from that point forward, he and I had some serious, serious disagreements,” White said.

White said that out of numerous findings, Passailaigue’s compensatory time to himself and other members of the administration bothered him most. 

Morale and personnel issues were also pressing in White’s opinion.

“We’d be better served by someone else leading the agency,” he said after the announcement. 

Baldridge accepted the appointment via a telephone call as she waited outside of the closed session Monday.

“I was unaware of (Passailaigue’s) resignation prior to the call I received asking me if I would accept the position while I was waiting outside of the executive session,” said Baldridge.

Baldridge said that the decision was also made to keep her current salary and office. 

“It is going to be business as usual with a few extra responsibilities,” she said. “We’ve had too many discussions in Arkansas about salaries in the lottery and I don’t want to be a part of that discussion.”

Baldridge said her concerns for the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery were to first maximize scholarships and second, ensure that lottery employees “have a pleasant and meaningful work environment.”

“We’ve got to remember that our only charge is that we are tasked by the Act with maximizing scholarship revenue. The second thing I want to do is make sure that the people I’ve worked with for these last two years who are deserving and hard-working Arkansans have a pleasant and meaningful work environment...”

Baldridge said she was “borrowed” from her position at UALR’s Bowen School of Law to work on legislation to enact the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, a position that she did not return to.

“I was concerned. I was one of the 37 percent who voted against the lottery. I did that because I was concerned about public policy issues,” she said. “I decided that since I already knew as much about this as I did, it would be selfish for me not to come over. I continue to be concerned about the need for this agency to have its ear to the ground to reflect what is right for scholarship recipients and what is right for our retailers, but also in doing what I would call “the fabric of Arkansas” requires of us, to not tear that fabric.”

The lottery would be in “good hands” with Baldridge White said. 

“There’s a lot at stake here. A lot of students depend on that scholarship in this community. I believe it was well in excess of 3,000 students that benefitted here at our three institutions.” 

Passailaigue, whose annual salary is more than $300,000, will officially be out of the Arkansas office on Oct. 7.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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Findings of a legislative audit and general dissatisfaction in the first two years of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery may have led to its director's resignation Monday.

It was announced following a closed Lottery Commission meeting Monday morning that the group had accepted Ernie Passailaigue's resignation, the Associated Press reported.

Former commission member Joe White, of Conway, first called for Passailaigue's dismissal in December of 2010.

"I made a motion to fire him on two occasions, and both were unsuccessful," White said Monday. "I will give him credit for being very knowledgeable about the business of the lottery. He got us started and this has benefitted a lot of students in this state." 

White said he had numerous disagreements with Passailaigue up until his own resignation from the commission about six months ago.

According to White, at least one other commissioner also called for the former director's resignation. 

White's opinion of Passailaigue as a director darkened further after a legislative audit conducted this year revealed close to $100,000 in penalties from the IRS.

"When the report was issued, from that point forward, he and I had some serious, serious disagreements," White said.

White said that out of numerous findings, Passailaigue's compensatory time to himself and other members of the administration bothered him most. 

Morale and personnel issues were also pressing in White's opinion.

"We'd be better served by someone else leading the agency," he said after Monday's announcement. 

The AP reported that Julie Baldridge, spokeswoman and legislative relations director, would serve as interim director until the commission found a new chief. 

"The lottery will be in good hands under the leadership of Julie Baldridge. There's a lot at stake here. A lot of students depend on that scholarship in this community. I believe it was well in excess of 3,000 students that benefitted here at our three institutions," said White. 

Passailaigue, whose annual salary is more than $300,000, will officially be out of the Arkansas office on Oct. 7.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached at 505-1236, or by email at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The embattled director of the Arkansas Lottery resigned Monday after a series of public missteps that drew criticism and overshadowed the college scholarships financed by the program he helped establish.


Ernie Passailaigue's resignation was announced Monday after a closed session of the Arkansas Lottery Commission. His resignation is effective Oct. 7.


Julie Baldridge, the lottery's spokeswoman and legislative relations director, will serve as interim director, commission chairwoman Dianne Lamberth said.


Passailaigue, a former director of South Carolina's lottery, was hired by the commission in June 2009 to help Arkansas set up its games. Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2008 allowing the state to sell lottery tickets to raise money for college scholarships.


He faced criticism repeatedly for his management of the games, most recently over the revelation that the lottery owed nearly $100,000 to the Internal Revenue Service in penalties and interest for late deposits. The lottery has appealed to the IRS to waive the penalties.


Gov. Mike Beebe, who appoints three members of the nine-member lottery commission, called the mistake "inexcusable" but stopped short then of calling for Passailaigue's ouster.


Passailaigue has already faced scrutiny this year over the lottery's profits coming in almost $11 million short of projections for the fiscal year that ended June 30.


He also came under fire last year for a legislative audit that criticized the games' management practices. Among other findings, auditors said the lottery didn't seek approval for some vendor contracts and kept incomplete travel records for Passailaigue and other top officials.


Passailaigue has also been criticized for giving raises to lottery employees and to himself. He earns more than $300,000 per year.


Passailaigue had survived other attempts by members of the commission to fire him. After the furor over the legislative audit, Passailaigue said he didn't plan to resign but also would not commit to keeping the job for the five years he originally he said he wanted to stay.