By John Lyon

Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK — Interim Lottery Director Julie Baldridge on Friday hired a Little Rock CPA to be the lottery’s new chief financial officer.

Baldridge said she hired accountant Jerold Fetzer, a partner at Miller & Co. PLC, at an annual salary of $98,000. Fetzer, 61, will fill the position vacated by the resignation of Philip Miley in September.

Fetzer’s first day on the job will be on or about Nov. 23. He said in an interview Friday he appreciates the opportunity and the challenge.

"I think I’m qualified. I am a practicing certified accountant, but I have an extensive corporate background which I think also helps," he said.

The pay range for a state employee in Fetzer’s position is $92,515-$115,614. The lottery’s policy is to hire new employees at entry-level pay, but the Arkansas Lottery Commission met by teleconference Friday morning and authorized Baldridge to offer Fetzer more than entry-level pay. 

Fetzer, who did not take part in that meeting, accepted the position later in the morning.

"I reviewed the submission by Mr. Fetzer and found him to be more than capable of taking care of the needs that we have been seeking," said Commissioner Bruce Engstrom of North Little Rock.

Baldridge said she wanted to offer Fetzer more than entry-level pay because of his "extraordinary qualifications."

"We’ve checked numerous references and satisfied ourselves that he’s overqualified, perhaps, for the job," she said. "He was originally with Allied Telephone Company when it began its growth into Alltel and worked there for 28 years, eventually rising to the chief financial officer position of a Fortune 500 company."

Fetzer earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Arkansas in 1972 and became a CPA in Arkansas in 1974. He left Alltel in March 2008.

Lottery officials said 23 people applied for the job, but Fetzer stood out from the crowd.

"One of the extraordinary things about Mr. Fetzer is that in addition to chief financial officer, he has done a number of things such as bring all the expenditures, the purchasing and procurement, at Alltel into one operation. He was able to achieve savings in that manner," Baldridge said.

Fetzer’s job titles at Alltel included vice president of corporate shared services. Baldridge said that in that role he managed multiple divisions serving the entire operation, such as the information technology staff and the procurement and purchasing staffs.

"So there will be an opportunity for him to perhaps extend some of the services that the CFO would offer, and so we’re very excited about that," she said.

Lottery Director Ernie Passailaigue and Vice President of Gaming Operations David Barden resigned from their posts on Oct. 3, and two days later Baldridge fired Vice President of Administration Ernestine Middleton. Reporters asked Baldridge if she was touting Fetzer’s administrative skills because she intended to eliminate Middleton’s position.

"No. I hired a CFO," she said.

Middleton was making $225,655 a year when she was fired.

Miley was making $80,673 a year when he resigned Sept. 9. He was criticized by lawmakers and some lottery commissioners after a 2010 audit of the lottery found numerous problems with accounting and management procedures, including an annual financial report that was not prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.

Auditors also noted that Miley was not a CPA, though the resume he submitted to the lottery said he was. Miley had been a CPA but had allowed his certification to lapse before Passailaigue hired him in 2009.

Miley also was criticized over a $100,000 IRS penalty the lottery faces for late tax payments. The lottery is appealing the penalty.

Reporters asked Baldridge if she expected Fetzer’s hiring to eliminate the accounting issues that occurred when Miley was chief financial officer.

"I think his resume speaks for itself," she said.

Asked if he expected to put the lottery’s accounting problems behind it, Fetzer said, "That is my full intention."