by Max Brantley
They are at-will employees, which means a new leader could send them away, though their lottery experience might prove useful if the hire is a solid manager but without previous lottery employment. Barden will enjoy some support as a potential successor. He will also face questions. Should his name arise as a candidate, he'll be expected to account for his role in the uncommonly favorable contract terms enjoyed by a major games vendor, a deal that will produce a $100 million windfall for the company over seven years in return for a speeded startup that might have produced an additional $30 million for the Arkansas scholarship program. His past questioning on travel expenses won't be forgotten either.
Noted: Barden, to date, has not presented the affable, accessible face that could have, for example, extended Ernie P.'s tenure here.
Good PR is needed going forward. Ernie P.'s departure, as much as anything, reflected his understanding — whether reached independently or with help of counsel by others — that he'd become a lightning rod and liability to the lottery and that pending investigations promised more difficult headlines. Rather than focusing on scholarships, press coverage was focused on him and various problems. I'm not sure elevating one of his key lieutenants puts that feeling to rest.