LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Lottery Commission hasn't begun its search for a replacement for outgoing Director Ernie Passailaigue, but the commission's chairman and a key legislative leader said Tuesday that whoever gets the job shouldn't expect the same paycheck.
A day after Passailaigue resigned, the lottery commission's chairwoman and the co-chairman of the lottery's oversight committee said they didn't expect the next director to enjoy the same high salary. Passailaigue's $324,000 annual pay, along with the six-figure salaries that other top officials received, was among the criticisms that the games faced during his more than two years on the job.
Chairwoman Dianne Lamberth said she expected the commission to consider recommended changes to the director's job description as early as next week. She said it was too soon to say how much the next director would be paid, but said it would unlikely match Passailaigue's salary.
Passailaigue, a former director of South Carolina's lottery, was hired by the commission in June 2009 and led the lottery as it launched ticket sales three months later. Lamberth and other commissioners have defended the pay he received and said it was needed to bring in someone with experience to start the lottery.
"That's what it took to bring the expertise here," Lamberth said, adding that Passailaigue "left us in a very, very strong position" but his replacement wouldn't be faced with the same difficulties of a start-up.
"I think we can find somebody of excellent quality and caliber that that salary would not be needed," she said.
Passailaigue resigned on Monday without giving a reason why he was leaving, but his departure came after a series of public missteps. He did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday from The Associated Press.
Lamberth said she'd prefer to see a statewide and national search for Passailaigue's replacement. She didn't have a timeline for the commission to replace Passailaigue, but said she didn't expect it would happen by the time his resignation takes effect Oct. 7. But she also didn't expect it to take several months.
"I don't want to shut any doors," she said.
Gov. Mike Beebe and lawmakers criticized the high pay that Passailaigue and others received at the start of the lottery, and Beebe said Monday that he hoped the commission would pay the next director less.
Sen. Johnny Key, co-chairman of the lottery oversight committee, said it was unlikely that legislators would approve paying the next director the same salary. The nine-member lottery commission — appointed by the governor, House speaker and Senate president — can hire and fire the director.
State law sets the lottery director's maximum salary at $141,603, but allows the commission to pay as much as $354,000 with legislative approval.
"I suspect the oversight committee will not approve the type of multiplier we saw with Ernie just because of the public outcry over the huge salary," said Key, R-Mountain Home. "That salary was justified based on getting him here and getting the lottery up and running as soon as possible. It will be a more mature organization."
Lawmakers and commissioners praised Passailaigue for the quick startup of the lottery, which has funded more than 60,000 college scholarships, but he faced scrutiny about the games' management.
Most recently, Passailaigue faced questions over last month's revelation that the lottery owed nearly $100,000 to the Internal Revenue Service in penalties and interest for late deposits. The lottery has appealed to the IRS to waive the penalties.