Bredesen vows support for state's lottery chief
Gov. Phil Bredesen, after criticizing hiring practices by the head of the Tennessee lottery last week, said yesterday that Rebecca Paul has his "unqualified support."
Bredesen told reporters last week that he had had enough of Paul hiring executives who worked for her in Georgia and paying them high salaries to run Tennessee's games.
Because Paul is under pressure to get Tennessee's lottery going before mid-February, Bredesen said from a trade mission to Japan yesterday: "I'll cut her some slack."
Salaries and bonuses became an issue when the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. board hired Paul and gave her a potential compensation package of $752,500 for the first year, including $350,000 in salary and the rest in performance incentives.
She has hired three former Georgia lottery executives at $180,000 each plus bonuses that she says are not finalized.
Bredesen spoke to Tennessee reporters yesterday during a teleconference from Osaka, Japan, where he has spent the past week courting Japanese business executives who have Tennessee investments or could decide to open plants here.
Last week the governor said there were enough Georgians and high-salaried executives on the lottery staff. Paul, who left as chief executive officer of Georgia's lottery to take the same position in Tennessee, subsequently hired a third Georgian at the top salary of $180,000 plus an unspecified bonus.
The governor said yesterday that lottery officials informed him at the time that they would be announcing the hiring of another Georgian, Andy Davis, to be chief financial and technology officer.
"I'm in the business of honoring commitments that have been made and didn't scream and yell over that, but I believe I've made myself clear that we need to get on with the business of operating a lottery," Bredesen said.
He is not trying to run the lottery day by day, Bredesen said, but "I feel free, if they're doing something off center of the road, to comment on it. & Rebecca and the board are doing a good job but need to be more sensitive about hiring and salaries, and I think they will."
The better and more experienced her management team, Paul has said, the more tickets will be sold to raise money for college scholarships.
Republican lawmakers last week sent a letter to Bredesen saying they are concerned about the high salaries and "under-the-table bonuses." They asked him "to right this ship before it spins out of control."
Bredesen press secretary Lydia Lenker responded that the governor "doesn't ever want to see the lottery become a partisan issue."