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Embattled Arkansas Lottery director Passailaigue resigns after series of missteps

A major shake-up at the top of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery as embattled lottery director Ernie Passailaigue turned in his resignation letter Monday. The two paragraph resignation letter says he leaves October 7th and thanks the commission for the opportunity.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - A major shake-up at the top of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery as embattled lottery director Ernie Passailaigue turned in his resignation letter Monday. The two paragraph resignation letter says he leaves October 7th and thanks the commission for the opportunity.

After 90 minutes behind closed doors the Arkansas Lottery Commission on Monday accepted the resignation letter of director Ernie Passailaigue.

"He gave no other reason than he just appreciated the opportunity to be here," commission chairwoman Diane Lamberth says.

Passailaigue is responsible for the quickest startup of any lottery in U.S. history in September 2009 with nearly $200 million in proceeds funding 30,000 college scholarships so far.

But the young lottery has been plagued by serious management missteps too, including an audit with a number of mistakes in 2010. And in August, the lottery revealed it owed the Internal Revenue Service approximately $100,000 after miscalculating a tax payment. The mistake led to the resignation of the lottery’s chief fiscal officer in August.

"On the whole you've got to give him credit for the speed and efficiency with which it was started but on the other hand there was a lot of controversy around the day to day operations," governor Mike Beebe says.

Passailaigue came to Arkansas from leading the lottery in his native South Carolina and earns $330,480 annually. Beebe says he is not concerned with where the next director hails from but told reporters Monday he would like to see the next lotto leader earn less.

Lottery Commissioner Steve Faris said today the commission wants someone with a different vision than Passailaigue.

"Whoever we select, I'd like to see a director that has a good idea of where they want it to go, they can pick on things that have been done here in a positive way and move forward,” Faris says. “I don't want to dwell on the past, the future is what is important to me."

That future no longer includes the man credited with starting the lottery

The lottery commission named Julie Baldridge as interim director. She's the public relations director for the lottery now but is not a candidate for the full-time job. Her salary of $107,000 will not be increased as a result of the new title.

Passailaigue started June 1, 2009. He does not work under contract, so he will not receive any buyout. In his resignation letter he says the October 7th date will allow the commission to select a new director and “get us past the launch of our new game, Arkansas 50/50 Raffle on October 1.”
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