The first chairman of the North Carolina lottery commission resigned Tuesday after a year on the job that began tumultuously and ended up with ticket sales of more than $400 million.
During his tenure, Charles Sanders helped create the North Carolina lottery from scratch, handled ethics questions surrounding the approval of the games and watched three other commissioners give up their seats.
Gov. Mike Easley appointed Sanders in September 2005 to a one-year term that expired Aug. 31. In a message released by the North Carolina Education Lottery, Sanders said he told Easley at the time of his appointment that he planned only to serve for a year.
"I am proud the funds generated by the lottery are adding to the existing commitment of North Carolina to the education of its students," Sanders said in the message, warning that "the people of North Carolina must guard to ensure that these funds are truly additive and not supplanting existing funds in the years ahead."
Easley, whose office didn't immediately respond to the news Tuesday, will have to appoint a replacement for Sanders and pick a new chairman.
Sanders has "just done a remarkable job," commissioner Bob Appleton said. "His leadership was just outstanding."
Sanders, a former chief executive officer of pharmaceutical giant Glaxo Inc. and 1996 U.S. Senate candidate, opposed the lottery before it became the law, but said he agreed to become chairman because of his belief in the need for educational improvement in North Carolina.
State law requires at least 35 percent of gross revenues to be set aside for education programs.
So far, the lottery has sold $410.1 million in scratch-off and Powerball tickets, with daily numbers drawings slated to begin next month. North Carolina was the last state on the East Coast to approve a lottery.
"During this time together we as a commission have brought a smoothly functioning lottery into being," Sanders said.
There were plenty of rough spots to start.
Kevin Geddings, a former lottery commissioner who resigned in November just before his financial ties to lottery company Scientific Games International were made public, was indicted in May on nine federal counts of mail and wire fraud. Prosecutors said he misled state officials by not reporting that his consulting firm received nearly $230,000 between 2001 and 2005 either from Scientific Games or a company it later acquired.
Geddings was appointed by House Speaker Jim Black. Meredith Norris, a former political aide to Black, pleaded no contest last month to charges she broke state lobbying laws as she worked for Scientific Games last year to encourage lawmakers to create a state lottery. At the time, she also worked as Black's unpaid political director.
Commission member Gordon Myers resigned two weeks after Geddings, saying he was concerned about a potential conflict of interest stemming from his business relationship with a grocery store chain that now sells lottery tickets.
The first commissioner to leave the panel, Malachi Greene of Charlotte, said he didn't have the time or energy to serve on the commission. Greene's original replacement withdrew her name after her own conflict of interest worries.
Appleton, who learned of Sanders' departure Monday, said Sanders focused the commission on the job they were asked to complete rather than wrestle with outside issues.
"He handled that so well and really kept those discussions to a minimum because they were really not ... of our doing," Appleton said.
For months, Sanders led off every commission meeting with the mantra that lottery revenues earmarked for education shouldn't replace existing education funds. The General Assembly passed an oversight commission this summer that will attempt to ensure that happens.