Complaints will end once game is operational, CEO Paul says
Tennessee Lottery CEO Rebecca Paul on Monday defended the high salaries going to lottery executives and predicted complaints, such as those voiced by a group of Republican legislators, will end when the lottery is up and running.
"I'm very comfortable that we have hired the best and the brightest to maximize dollars for scholarships," Paul told when asked about a letter to Gov. Phil Bredesen from 19 Republican state legislators.
The letter complained of "extraordinary salaries and unspecified bonuses" going to top lottery executives when the money could go toward education and asked Bredesen, who appointed the seven-member lottery board, to "right this ship before it spins out of control."
Sdventeen executives have been hired so far. Paul makes a base salary of $350,000 with the prospect of bonuses pushing that total to $752,500. Four others - former state Treasurer Steve Adams and the three from Georgia - will have a base salary of $180,000 and also will be eligible for bonuses.
"When we start early and have high revenues and we return scholarship dollars, everybody will be happy with who we are and what we do," Paul said in response to questions about the Republican legislators' letter.
"Once the tickets go on sale and scholarships are awarded, all those issues go away."
East Tennessee Republicans signing the letter included Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ron Ramsey of Blountville; Sen. Rusty Crowe of Johnson City; Sen. Steve Southerland of Morristown; Rep. David Davis of Johnson City; and state Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville.
Bredesen spokeswoman Lydia Lenker said the governor, who has been on a "trade mission" to Japan since Wednesday, has been unable to respond to the letter sent Friday.
Before leaving, Bredesen told reporters that he felt there were enough high salaries and enough Georgians on the lottery staff. The lottery board subsequently announced another hire at $180,000 - Georgian Andy Davis as vice president of finance and administration.
Denny Bottorff, chairman of the lottery board, said Monday that the governor had already been privately informed of plans to hire Davis in addition to the other two $180,000 Georgians.
"He knew that was in the works at the time he made those comments," Bottorff said.
Lenker said Bredesen has made clear that he is "concerned about who is being hired and what they are being paid" but believes the focus should turn to getting the lottery in operation and generating money for scholarships.
"I would think he would feel this issue should not become a partsian issue. It should transcend politics," she said.
Copies of the Republican legislators letter, drafted by Rep. Donna Rowland, R-Murfreesboro, says the four largest lotteries in the country - New York, Massachusetts, Texas and California - have lottery directors earning an average of just more than $119,000 last year.
They said the difference in salary between that being paid to two top South Carolina lottery officials and that to be paid to their counterparts in Tennessee would cover the cost of 52 full college scholarships of $3,000 each to Tennessee students.
The average salary of a Tennessean statewide was $27,378 in 2002, according to state officials. The lottery executive salaries are higher than virtually all state government salaries, but Paul says the lottery is in competition for executive talent with the private sector rather than the state.
Paul, who was CEO of the Georgia lottery when hired to run Tennessee's lottery, said all startup lotteries need to hire lottery-experienced people in key positions and she had explained that on the front end.
She said all five executives who will report directly to her have now been hired. The lottery expects to hire a total of about 300 persons statewide by the time ticket sales begin - with Feb. 10 as the target date.
Almost 8,000 persons have applied for lottery jobs through a Web site operated by the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp., www.tnlottery.gov, and another "3,000 to 4,000" have mailed in applications, Paul said.