LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Lottery Commission, in an attempt to deflect criticism it received in the past for former top officials' six-figure salaries, set new salary limits Monday for its next director.
The commission voted to set the maximum salary for the next director at $175,000. The nine-member commission plans to begin interview candidates this weekend for the opening left by former director Ernie Passailaigue, who resigned in September after criticism over his management of the games.
Passailaigue was paid about $324,000 a year, a figure that drew criticism from Gov. Mike Beebe, lawmakers and others. State law sets the lottery director's maximum salary at $141,603, but the director can be paid up to $354,000 if approved by a legislative committee.
Members of the commission said they doubted that legislators would be willing to approve anything nearing Passailaigue's pay.
"We have to think of a figure that is something the oversight committee and, ultimately, the Legislature can live with," commissioner Steve Faris told the panel.
Commission chairwoman Dianne Lamberth said she believed the limit was a more realistic figure than the pay given Passailaigue, who was hired in 2009 to help launch the games.
"It's been a huge perception problem, but I think what this is saying is that startup is over." Lamberth said.
Sen. Johnny Key, who co-chairs the lottery's legislative oversight panel, called the limit a step in the right direction.
"Now we have a lottery that is up and running and stable and using other states as comparisons, they have a strong justification for this number," said Key, R-Mountain Home.
Beebe also said he was pleased with the panel's decision.
"I always thought that other salary was too high," Beebe said. "I understood they were trying to get it set up in a hurry, but those reasons have changed."
The lottery voted to interview seven candidates for the director's job. The finalists are former Pennsylvania horse track and casino executive Richard Knight, New Hampshire Lottery Director Charles McIntyre, former Clinton administration aide Bob Nash, former Georgia Lottery Senior Vice President Joan Schoubert, state House of Representatives Chief of Staff Bill Stovall, former Kansas Lottery Director Edwin Van Petten and current Arkansas Lottery attorney Bishop Woosley.