One of the state's nine lottery commissioners resigned abruptly Tuesday, saying other commitments mean he cannot be effective in overseeing North Carolina's $1.2 billion-a-year gambling operation.
The departure comes as the board is set to meet today to consider a new ethics code aimed at ensuring public confidence in the lottery that includes stricter rules than lawmakers put in place.
Malachi J. Greene, a former Charlotte City Council member, said in a resignation letter that he doesn't have time for the job and must step down.
Greene, who was appointed to the panel by Senate leader Marc Basnight, had spoken forcefully at the commission's first meeting about the need for integrity in the lottery. Greene could not be reached for comment.
The resignation is the latest twist in the early work to start the state's lottery, which was approved in tight votes by the House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Mike Easley on Aug. 31.
Another commissioner, Kevin Geddings of Charlotte, has been the focus of ethical questions because of his personal and business ties to an official with lottery company Scientific Games, which is expected to seek the job of operating the scratch-off ticket and numbers games.
Geddings, who was appointed by House Speaker Jim Black, has said he will not vote on vendor contracts. That led the state Republican Party to call for his resignation.
A Black spokeswoman, Julie Robinson, said Tuesday the speaker is having discussions with others, including Easley, about Geddings' role.
"Anything's possible," she said, "but nothing has been decided."
Geddings said again Tuesday that he does not plan to step aside.
The N.C. Board of Ethics issued a letter this month noting that Geddings has a potential conflict of interest as a commissioner.
Perry Y. Newson, the board's executive director, said Geddings should not vote on gaming vendors. Newson said in an interview that Geddings also should not try to influence the outcome of a decision on vendors. Geddings said he won't.
The ethics board also identified Gordon Myers of the Asheville area, another Black appointee, as having a potential conflict of interest because Myers has a financial stake in the Ingles supermarket chain, which might sell lottery tickets.
Myers, a former Ingles executive, has already said he will not speak privately with any potential lottery contractor. He told the ethics board he would not participate in any votes that could involve his former employer.
Myers is on the lottery commission because lawmakers specified that one member must have retailing experience.
The ethics board did not identify potential conflicts for the remaining six commissioners. But the board noted that one, Linda Carlisle of Greensboro, is a bank director and might face an ethics question if the commission seeks to contract with a private financial institution.
Under the new ethics code being considered today, commissioners and their immediate family members would be prevented from accepting anything of value from lottery interests, including gifts, meals, travel or entertainment.
Commissioners also would be required to have "material communications" with contractors or potential contractors only in public meetings.
Commissioners would be "specifically discouraged" from having individual contact with lottery interests.
If adopted, the code would be stronger than rules put in place by the legislature, which specified that commissioners and family members not receive gifts or anything else valued at more than $100 a year from contractors, retailers or those seeking lottery business.
Food and beverages were excluded.
Charles Sanders of Durham, the commission's chairman, has made a priority of ensuring that the board conducts its business openly and transparently.
He said the code would be a good first step.