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Lottery chief says games will rarely be closed to public

Tennessee LotteryTennessee Lottery: Lottery chief says games will rarely be closed to public

Tennessee's new lottery chief cites three situations where operations of the games would be closed to public scrutiny - for recruiting employees, negotiating vendor contracts and discussing security issues. Rebecca Paul, who was chosen this week as CEO to lead startup of the Tennessee games, says those are issues that must be discussed behind closed doors - and happen primarily during the first year of a new lottery. Paul is expected to officially join the Tennessee games by Oct. 1 after 10 years as director of the Georgia lottery.

During setup of those games, there were several closed sessions, she said, but once the lottery began the public was invited to all meetings. "I haven't had a closed lottery meeting in nine years," Paul said this week. "But because of startup, you have to have them." The quasi-governmental Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. does not have to abide by the state's Sunshine Law and conduct its business in public. But Rep. Chris Newton, R-Benton and the lottery sponsor in the House, has said that may be one of the areas of the law that needs to be "tweaked" in future sessions of the General Assembly. Tennessee's lottery law was modeled after the Georgia games, which allows the governing board to meet in secret for specific reasons, such as personnel issues.

So far, Tennessee board members have gone into "executive session" to discuss some of those same issues listed by Paul. They include: - The consideration of a proposed partnership between the Tennessee and Georgia games, which officials recently decided against. At the time, board members said opening the meetings to the media and public would tip Georgia to Tennessee's strategy in the deal. - The interviewing of chief executive candidates. Board members' reasoning was that the most-qualified candidates would refuse to be considered if their names were made public. - Deliberations among members before selection of legal counsel to represent the corporation.

In other lottery news, Paul began traveling the state this week, meeting Wednesday with minority business owners at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis to let them "know we'll be responsive to minority business issues ... as well as all businesses in the state," said lottery spokesman Will Pinkston. Paul was to have lunch with the president of the University of Memphis before flying to Knoxville to appear Thursday before a group of community leaders there. Also on Thursday, she is scheduled to attend a luncheon with East Tennessee lawmakers hosted by University of Tennessee interim president Joe Johnson. Proceeds from the lottery will fund scholarships for Tennessee students attending public and public universities and colleges in the state.

WMC

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