by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Lottery Commission today released documents that show Ernestine Middleton was fired as vice president of administration because interim lottery director Julie Baldridge told her in a brief memo she had "lost confidence in her ability to perform to the level this agency will need going forward." The note cited past audit exceptions still being addressed after nine months and new tax issues (a $100,000 penalty assessed by the IRS for late payments) and noted that these matters fell on the administrative side.
Baldridge offered her the opportunity to resign, but apparently Middleton didn't take that option.
The documents, released under an FOI request, show Middleton knew her time was short. She wrote a memo Oct. 5 about preparing separation documents.
"Although I am not resigning from my position, it is obvious from the disregard for me personally and professionally (not informed of staff changes under my responsibility, not copied on e-mails to my direct reports, not included on meetings with my direct reports, requests for direction from the interim director ignore, etc.). I am being pressured to leave."
She filed that note at 3 p.m. Oct. 5 and was fired from her $226,000 job later that afternoon. She was the last of three top lottery officials who came from the South Carolina lottery to get the Arkansas lottery up and running.
Here's the packet of FOI material released today. Bishop Woosley, the lottery legal counsel, said performance evaluations were not released because they did not form the record on which the firing decision was made.