The Arkansas Lottery Commission met today and director Ernie Passailaigue tried to put out the fire raging over the massive comp time doled out to employees during the lottery startup, including hundreds of hours credited to Passailiague himself and two top aides, Ernestine Middleton and David Barden, though they make $225,000 and Ernie P. makes $324,000.
Passailaigue said he, Middleton and Barden would waive all claims to any accrued comp time and repay the state for comp time they had already drawn by giving up offsetting leave or vacation time or making a payment if necessary, said staff attorney Bishop Woosley. Passailaigue also said, going forward, no comp time would be awarded to any employees exempt on account of high rank from usual state employee reimbursement policies. CORRECTION: Contrary to what I wrote earlier, Woosley also said that other exempt employees with accrued comp time they have not taken will not be able to use it, unless the Commission revisits the subject and approves it. I had misunderstood him to say lower level exempt employees could use remaining time.
The comp time to highly paid employees had set off a furor on top of salaries, which are well in excess of those paid top officials in most other lotteries. Two lottery commissioners tried to fire Passailaigue over the issue at the last meeting.
BY THE WAY: The lottery ceremonially presented the Higher Education Department a $106 million check today, the amount provided for scholarships from the lottery's first-year sales of $485 million after payouts to winners and expenses.
Arkansas Lottery Commission Chairman Dianne Lamberth presented a ceremonial check Thursday for $106 million to fund the Academic Challenge Scholarships to Arkansas Department of Higher Education director Jim Purcell, Ed.D., who accepted on behalf of the more than 29,000 recipients attending the state’s colleges and universities.
At an event to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the lottery’s inception, Lamberth said, “This may be our first birthday, but we are really here to celebrate the beginning of educational opportunities that will lead to increased economic development for our state.
“Funding the Academic Challenge Scholarship is the most important thing that we do as lottery employees and commissioners,” she continued. “It’s the only reason that the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery exists, and the only reason that we accepted this position.”
Nearly one million Arkansas voters cast ballots on the lottery issue in November 2008, with 63 percent approval. Instant-win tickets went on sale Sept. 28, 2009, followed by Powerball sales in October and Mega Millions in January 2010. The lottery ended the 2010 fiscal year June 30 with $373 million in sales and $82 million in the Education Trust Fund.
By midnight Sept. 28, the lottery had $485 million in sales for the lottery, with $106 million contributed to the Education Trust Fund for Arkansas college and university students. Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships awarded to date number 29, 222 with an expected 30,000 for the academic year.
“I believe that the Academic Challenge Scholarship is a game changer for Arkansas,” said Purcell. “Not only did it provide immediate financial support for students in college this year, but as importantly I believe it let kids in our K-12 education system know that they too can go to college.
“It is my expectation that because young Arkansans will know that college is possible, the relationship they have with mathematics and the written and spoken word will evolve,” he said. “They will see the importance of giving extra effort on a test or a paper. That they will hold their heads up high as they plan their lives, because education can make opportunities possible.
“Education matters, and the future of our children matters,” Purcell concluded. “I thank the Arkansas Lottery Commission and commend them for their hard work in making the lottery’s first year successful. Our students thank you, and I am sure future generations will look back on this effort as the beginning of a new era for Arkansas higher education and the Arkansas economy.”