by Max Brantley
The last of the three top lottery officials who came from South Carolina to get the Arkansas Lottery off the ground has left the building.
Ernestine Middleton, who made about $226,000 a year as vice president for administration, left the agency's employment yesterday afternoon, I've been told reliably.
I've been unable to reach any lottery officials for official confirmation or to obtain copies of any documents reflecting the nature of the separation. A receptionist told me Middleton was not available. When I asked if she was still employed, the receptionist didn't provide an answer but referred my call to interim director Julie Baldridge. Baldridge has not yet returned phone or e-mail inquiries. I've also been unable to reach the Commission chairman, Dianne Lamberth.
Ernie Passailaigue, the former South Carolina lottery director, who was paid $326,000 as leader of the Arkansas lottery, resigned amid some criticism Oct. 3. The preceding Friday, David Barden resigned as vice president for gaming. Like Middleton, he came to Arkansas from South Carolina at $225,000.
UPDATE: Bishop Woosley, chief legal counsel for the lottery, confirms that Middleton left the agency yesterday afternoon. In response to a question, he said she had been terminated. He said he wouldn't discuss the reasons for the personnel decision. I have made a Freedom of Information Act request for her file, which is open to the public in the event of firings. But she must be notified and given an opportunity to object to disclosure.
I asked Woosley if he expected Middleton to sue over his firing. He was silent, he laughed briefly, then said, "No comment."