When Rebecca Paul gave three weeks' notice that she was stepping down as head of Georgia's lottery to start Tennessee's, her bosses showered her with praise and wished her well.
Days later, the lottery's board of directors barred Paul from her desk and declared it wanted the $500,000-a-year executive gone yesterday literally.
Officially, Paul's last day on the job became Sept. 5, two days before she phoned Georgia's governor and told him she had accepted the job of Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. chief executive. Since her call to Gov. Sonny Perdue, Paul has been allowed access to her downtown Atlanta office twice to retrieve personal effects but only after employees had left and always with an escort.
Lottery officials explained that Paul has been trying to recruit two top members of the Georgia Lottery operation to follow her to Nashville which Paul denied. They also said that, in locking Paul out of the lottery headquarters she established in 1993, they were following a policy set by the lottery president herself regarding the removal of senior managers which Paul also denied.
Paul, 54, was reluctant to go over the details of her departure and insisted that she harbors no ill feelings. She confirmed that the Georgia lottery board rebuffed her offer of a three-week transition, so she has moved her start date in Nashville to Tuesday. Paul had planned to start Oct. 1.
Paul will be paid a base salary of $350,000 per year in Tennessee. With incentives, the package could exceed $750,000.
"We've done everything we can to let her know how much we love and respect her, but this is business. And this is how business works," said lottery board Chairwoman Barbara Dooley, who called Paul "a very close friend."
Will Pinkston, a spokesman for Tennessee's lottery, said the games' startup won't be slowed if Paul can't bring her top lieutenants with her from Georgia.
"Nobody's counting on anything like that," Pinkston said. "Rebecca's said fairly consistently that there are six to eight positions in the Tennessee lottery that are going to require some previous lottery experience. Where those people come from, whether it's Georgia or some other lottery state, remains to be seen. But we're very confident that the Tennessee lottery will have no problem getting started, whether we have people from Georgia or elsewhere."
He said Paul would be moving to Nashville this weekend.
In a hand-delivered Sept. 12 letter, over the names of all seven members, the Georgia lottery board wrote to Paul: "It would help us immensely if we could have your assurance that you will not disrupt or interfere with the great team we have assembled here in Georgia."
Paul said no other Georgia Lottery executive has been treated as she has. "Every senior manager who left has had a 60-day transition, even the ones who were fired," Paul said yesterday evening, just before walking into the Georgia Lottery headquarters to pick up her mail and potted plants. During a trip last week, she retrieved her late husband's death certificate and some stock certificates.
The former president of the lottery corporation also denied luring away staff. "I never talked to anyone who didn't call me. I'm not sure keeping me out of the building will stop that."
Paul, a Republican, had nothing but praise for Perdue, with whom she spent an hour this month discussing the Tennessee opportunity. "When Sonny and I talked, we never, never talked about money. We talked about lifestyle. We talked about challenges. He could not have been more graceful or kind or caring," she said.
But the governor is siding with members of the lottery board, most of whom he appointed in July. "During our conversations with Miss Paul, she expressed gratitude for the manner in which her resignation was handled," spokesman Dan McLagan said.
On the Monday that Paul was hired by Tennessee, lottery directors in Georgia held a closed telephone meeting to appoint Senior Vice President Cathy Walls as an interim replacement. During that meeting, they began discussing Paul's status, Dooley said.
Dooley, who was elected lottery board chairwoman in August, noted that Paul had remained in Nashville most of that week. "You can't work for two people in direct competition. She was hiring. She was going through all the motions," Dooley said. That Thursday, the board met again and drafted the letter it had hand-delivered to Paul. Any leftover concerns Paul had topics she had wanted to address before leaving for Tennessee could be submitted in writing. The lottery board held out the possibility that Paul could be brought back as a paid consultant.
In closing, the letter spoke of "an appropriate recognition dvent" in the future to honor Paul for the $6 billion that the Georgia Lottery has raised for educational purposes.
In an attempt to end the relationship on a light note, the directors noted that she might continue to support the Georgia Lottery by buying the occasional ticket which Paul had been legally barred from doing while she ran the operation.