When North Dakota's former lottery director retired in April, he was paid $44,432 for unused vacation time, a sum that is raising eyebrows among lawmakers who write the budget for state government.
Chuck Keller could not use up his leave, which totaled more than 31 weeks, because he was busy planning the launch of North Dakota's lottery office, said Tom Trenbeath, the state's deputy attorney general. The lottery began selling Powerball tickets in March 2004.
Keller also accumulated compensatory time off and used it instead of taking vacation, Trenbeath said.
"Chuck did a nice job (establishing the lottery) in a short time," Trenbeath said. "He literally worked a double shift for more than a year."
Keller could not be reached for comment. He did not respond to telephone messages left at his home.
His vacation payment was reported Wednesday to the Legislature's interim Budget Section, which is made up of legislative floor leaders from both parties and members of the North Dakota House and Senate appropriations committees.
Normally, state employees may not keep more than 240 hours of unused vacation time each year, although agencies may allow a larger carryover for business reasons, said Pam Sharp, director of the state Office of Management and Budget. Keller was paid for 1,264 hours of vacation.
Rep. Bob Skarphol, R-Tioga, said in the future, legislative budget writers should be told of employees who may be retiring with large amounts of accumulated vacation time.
Sen. Larry Robinson, D-Valley City, said he worried about setting precedent.
"This just seems to be out of the ordinary in terms of our state policy," Robinson said.
Kathy Roll, a budget administrator in the attorney general's office, replied that the payment was unusual, "but there were extraordinary circumstances."
"(Keller) put in literally thousands and thousands of hours of overtime. With the tight implementation date of the lottery, he was not able to take (vacation), literally, for several years," Roll said. "We had been given a directive that the lottery needed to be on line at a certain point, and the hours that that took ... he was allowed to carry over."