11/18/05 — Clean it up now: Lottery officials must establish trust before games begin

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Clean it up now: Lottery officials must establish trust before games begin

It’s another day and a few more questions in what is becoming the daily ethics update on the North Carolina Lottery.

This time, the questions are continuing regarding former lottery commissioner Kevin Geddings, who has been criticized for not completely disclosing his former connections to Scientific Games Corp., which included a $24,500 consulting job.

Scientific Games hired Geddings before he was named a commissioner to assist the potential vendor in its lobbying efforts as the North Carolina Legislature debated the formation of a lottery.

Geddings did not mention that connection on his disclosure form, an ommission that he says he now regrets. Because the work he did with Scientific Games was terminated before his appointment, the connection did not cause any real concerns for the State Board of Ethics, which reviewed the case this week.

But still, it would have been better to have known about it first.

The questions will probably continue regarding those who are serving on the lottery commission now, just to be sure there are no more surprises. And there are still more issues to be resolved regarding the negotiations leading up to the decision and connections to staff members of Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenberg.

And that is a good thing.

The jury is still out on the North Carolina Lottery. There are legitimate reasons to question whether it is the right choice for raising more money for the state’s schools or if it is just a juggling act to rob from Peter to pay Paul, as the saying goes.

So as the new director takes over, openness, honesty and a squeaky clean beginning are critical if the project is going to have any legitimacy at all.

So, the first order of business for director Tom Shaheen is to make sure the house is clean.

Then, job No. 1 will become to set up a structure that not only maximizes the money raised for North Carolina schools, but also takes into account the legitimate concerns about a lottery.

There will be lots of discussions, lots of ideas, and there should be a whole lot of openness, too.

To re-establish the necessary trust in the process, the lottery commissioners and their new director as well as the State Legislature will have to make sure there are no questions left and plenty of people willing to address the hows and whys of making a lottery work in North Carolina.

And who knows, after the cleanup is finished and with the proper controls in place, perhaps this will end up being a good decision for North Carolina and its schoolchildren.

We will just have to wait and see.

Published in Editorials on November 18, 2005 10:22 AM