LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The director of the Arkansas Lottery survived an attempt this week to oust him from his job.
The Arkansas Lottery Commission voted down a motion to fire Ernie Passailaigue after the lottery director drew a strong rebuke for granting compensatory time off to employees who were exempt from receiving overtime pay.
"I'm going to let the motion speak for itself," said commissioner Ben Pickard of Searcy, who made the motion after the commission returned from executive session. Pickard and commissioner Ben White were the only two on the nine-member board to vote for the motion.
The executive session occurred after a contentious hour-long commission meeting, in which commission chairman Diane Lamberth criticized Passailaigue for what she called "a huge error in judgment."
"I feel like there's been some arrogance," she said.
Lamberth made her comments after Passailaigue told the panel he thought he had the authority to give comp time to the exempt employees for the good work they did in getting the lottery started last year.
Exempt employees are paid a salary and are ineligible for overtime pay.
Passailaigue approved 200 hours of comp time each for the commission's two vice presidents, Ernestine Middleton and David Barden, and for himself.
The director is paid $324,000 a year. Barden and Middleton each receive $225,000 annually.
The granting of the comp time was questioned in a recent study of the commission's personnel policies by the state personnel administrator.
The commission requested the study in July after receiving anonymous complaints about personnel issues.
The study, presented to the commission Wednesday, found that the majority of the commission's policies were consistent with most state government policies. However, it said the commission lacked a grievance process for employees and had no guidelines for the granting of compensation time to exempt employees.
The study questioned Passailaigue's authority to grant the compensation time.
Passailaigue told the panel that he originally asked the commission last year to consider granting the comp time, but after some discussion the commission voted to study the issue further and to seek legal advice.
He said the commission's personnel committee later met with state Office of Personnel Management officials and was told he had the authority to award the compensation.
Based on that information, Passailaigue said Wednesday, he withdrew his request for the commission to consider the issue because he thought he had the authority.
Lamberth said she thought the compensation issue was over when he withdrew his request from the commission.
"When it was withdrawn, we thought there was no more comp time," she said.
Passailaigue said there "obviously was some miscommunication."
During the meeting, the nine-member commission voted to work with the state Office of Personnel Management to get its personnel policies in-line with the rest of state government.
"It's apparent that we need some assistance," said commissioner Joe White of Conway.