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Tennessee Lottery executive exodus concerns lawmakers

Tennessee LotteryTennessee Lottery: Tennessee Lottery executive exodus concerns lawmakers

Some state legislators are concerned after learning that four Tennessee Lottery vice presidents have resigned since the games began in late January.

The departures of the vice presidents of finance, human resources, information systems and corporate affairs have caused the lottery to replace half of its eight vice president positions, lottery spokeswoman Kym Gerlock said.

"With most successful companies, highly visible employees are offered jobs that are too good to refuse," she said. "Companies are always looking for good people."

State Sen. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, said the quick exits are "unusual."

"This is something the (lottery) board needs to look into," said Cohen, Senate sponsor of the lottery legislation. "They need to talk to each of them to see if there is anything below the surface about why they left."

William Skees, vice president of information systems, will leave the lottery Friday to be closer to his family in New Jersey, Gerlock said.

Will Pinkston, former vice president of corporate affairs, left to rejoin Gov. Phil Bredesen's staff just three days after scratch-off tickets went on sale Jan. 20.

Pinkston was followed by the March departures of Agenia Clark, former vice president of human resources, and Bruce Esworthy, former vice president of finance.

Clark was the former director of human resources at Vanderbilt University. She left to lead the Girl Scout Council of Cumberland Valley, leaving behind a $100,000 base salary plus incentives.

Esworthy, whose lottery salary was $125,000, became chief financial officer of music company BMI in Nashville. He previously served in a range of finance roles over 14 years for Ingram Industries in Nashville.

Lottery Board Chairman Dennis Bottorff said the board had informal talks with the departing vice presidents. A formal exit interview process will be established as the lottery matures from its startup phase, he said.

"This is just part of the natural phenomenon of putting together a team that jells," he said. "These were people that came together from scratch and never worked together before, so turnover is expected."

Rep. Chris Clem, R-Lookout Mountain, said lottery CEO Rebecca Paul should be able to find employees who want to stay.

"I thought (she) was going to run things like a private sector, and that is why we are paying her so much," he said. "The private sector doesn't have that much turnover."

Paul has a pay package that could reach $752,500 a year with bonuses, making her the nation's highest paid lottery director.

Pinkston said he planned all along to return to the Bredesen administration.

"My intention was always to get back to the governor's office after the lottery got up and running," said Pinkston, who spent four months with the lottery. "It had nothing to do with the state of the lottery."

Pinkston earned a bonus equal to 6 percent of his $95,000 base salary, while the other three vice presidents each earned bonuses totaling 10 percent of their salaries, Gerlock said.

AP

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