A member of North Carolina's new lottery commission said he will remove himself from any decisions involving potential lottery vendors after it was disclosed he had a business relationship with a key executive of a major vendor.
Lottery commissioner Kevin Geddings of Charlotte and Alan Middleton, a vice president for lottery vendor Scientific Games, had previously acknowledged their friendship.
But both denied in interviews last month with The News & Observer of Raleigh that they also had a business relationship. Records show that Geddings employed Middleton several years ago on public relations projects.
Geddings, the only North Carolina lottery commissioner with gaming experience, said Wednesday that he might have misunderstood the questions he was asked, and he promised not to vote on a lottery vendor.
"I will not vote in any way, shape or form that can be interpreted by you or any citizens or the public that would be in any way seen as improper," Geddings told the N&O. "I will not vote. We'll get a good lottery provider, and the other eight commissioners will do a good job at that."
Scientific Games, based in Georgia, is one of the country's two major lottery vendors, along with GTECH Holdings of Rhode Island.
House Speaker Jim Black appointed Geddings, a former chief of staff to South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges, to the lottery commission. Geddings owns a public relations and communications firm in Charlotte but had also operated it in South Carolina after leaving the Hodges administration.
Geddings promoted the pro-lottery effort in South Carolina that led to the lottery's approval. He also worked on a successful lottery referendum effort in Tennessee.
Before he joined Scientific Games as its chief lobbyist, Middleton had a public relations firm in South Carolina and rented office space from Geddings.
Last month The News & Observer asked Geddings and Middleton in several different ways whether they had a past business relationship, whether Middleton's services were ever offered as part of Geddings' public relations work or whether Middleton was ever on Geddings' payroll.
Geddings said the two had not worked together on projects. Middleton said last month that Geddings sometimes provided him business leads and that it was on an irregular basis.
Middleton said Wednesday he was not trying to mislead anyone about the business dealings but thought they were much more informal than formal.
But records that are part of a lawsuit in Jasper County, S.C., indicate the two had an established business relationship. The records include a deposition that Geddings gave under oath Nov. 12, 2001.
The lottery commission's chairman, Charles Sanders, said Wednesday he would make sure that Geddings has no role in a lottery subcommittee expected to evaluate lottery vendors.
But only Geddings can remove himself from the full commission's votes on the vendors, he said.
"It's up to him whether he's absent from that vote or not," Sanders said.