By ANDREW DeMILLO
Associated Press Writer
HOT SPRINGS — Arkansas Lottery commissioners said Monday they’re in no rush to find a replacement for director Ernie Passailaigue weeks after he resigned the job and following the departure of two of his deputies.
The nine-member commission did not vote on a job description for the post after members said they wanted more time to review criteria. Passailaigue, who oversaw the state of Arkansas’ lottery, resigned Sept. 19 following criticism over his management of the games.
Commission Chairwoman Dianne Lamberth said the panel would likely wait until November to vote on a description for the post and begin a search for Passailaigue’s replacement.
"We think things are running fairly smoothly right now. We’re getting people moved into the right positions," Lamberth told reporters after the commission held a retreat at National Park Community College in Hot Springs. "We’re lean, but we’re working really smart and I think (the commissioners) don’t feel like we have to make that decision today."
The Arkansas Lottery Commission hired Passailaigue, then director of the South Carolina lottery, in 2009 to launch the Arkansas venture. But he resigned on Sept. 19 following a series of complaints about the games’ management, including a nearly $100,000 penalty it faces from the Internal Revenue Service for late payments.
After Passailaigue’s departure, Vice President for Gaming David Barden resigned and Vice President Ernestine Middleton was fired. Both followed Passailaigue from South Carolina to help start the games.
Commissioners said how to fill those positions will ultimately be decided after the commission finds a new director. Julie Baldridge, who is serving as the games’ interim director, will not be a candidate for the permanent director position.
"It’s hard to figure out what will happen with the deputy positions when we haven’t decided on a director," Commissioner Steve Faris said during the meeting.
Lamberth said the new director will likely lead to a different organization of the lottery’s management and a restructuring of those positions.
"Those jobs are going to be covered, but they’re going to be covered maybe in a different way," Lamberth said.
Lamberth said she expected the panel would likely discuss how much to pay the new director at the next meeting, but said she didn’t know if there would be any limitations approved. Passailaigue’s $326,000 annual pay, along with the $225,000 salaries that Barden and Middleton received, was criticized heavily during his two-year tenure.
Lamberth and top lawmakers have said the next director should not expect to be paid as much. State law sets the lottery director’s maximum salary at $141,603, but allows the commission to pay as much as $354,000 with legislative approval.
"I’ve had some say it won’t be that much, and I’ve had some say it depends on the qualifications," Lamberth said. "With nine people, you never know what you’re going to get."