Arkansas Lottery Director Ernie Passailaigue made his last appearance in front of the Arkansas Lottery Commission Legislative Oversight Committee this morning. The director, who will retire on Oct. 7, said working at the lottery had been a “labor of love.” Committee Chairman Johnny Key thanked Passailaigue for the work he had done for the lottery including getting the games up and running quickly. In his report to committee members, Passailaigue said instant tickets continue to perform well and sales in August were above last year’s numbers. So far this fiscal year, however, transfers to the scholarship fund have been below expectations (a combined $732,353 below budget for July and August).
Michael Hyde, the lottery’s internal auditor, told the committee that all of the deficiencies found by the last legislative audit should be cleared soon. He is working with legislative audit and a firm hired by the lottery to complete the lottery’s financial reports. He said that during this process he had discovered certain “issues” that he brought to the attention of the lottery commissioners. After the meeting, Hyde told reporters that the issues he noticed had to do with travel reimbursements for the lottery’s Vice President of Gaming Operations David Barden. When asked about what might turn up in the next legislative audit report, Passailaigue told reporters he did not know.
The oversight committee also heard from Julie Baldridge, who will take over for Passailaigue in the interim. She said her main concern moving forward was “stability.” Lottery Commission Chair Dianne Lamberth said the lottery commission’s personnel committee would meet on Monday to work up a job description for the lottery director position and discuss how they would move forward with the director search. Rep. Darrin Williams asked Lamberth if vice presidents Barden and Ernestine Middleton had been asked to resign as well. Lamberth said they had not and any action taken to that effect would be the responsibility of the lottery director, not the lottery commission. When asked if he had any intention of leaving the lottery Barden said after the meeting, “We’ll just have to see how everything works out.”
Passailaigue told reporters that he had enjoyed his time in Arkansas and that he was proud of his accomplishments here. He said he had not been asked to resign and felt no pressure to do so. He did hint that health had been a factor in his decision saying that he had two surgeries scheduled once he returned to South Carolina. When asked if he would have done anything differently, Passailaigue said, “You can always learn from your mistakes. I wouldn’t change coming out here. I wouldn’t have changed my perspective on things. I thought we came out here for a good reason, to get a lottery up and running and provide a lot of scholarship money for Arkansans. That’s been a pretty good thing, I think.”