Local News

More Questions Raised About Former Lottery Commissioner

Posted November 4, 2005

— Kevin Geddings abruptly resigned from the lottery commission earlier this week, just before records were released showing he was being paid by a lottery vendor. Now, other questions of interest of conflict have been raised about Geddings.

Before Geddings sat at the lottery commission table, he was politically connected.

He served as a paid consultant to the Senate Democratic Caucus, Gov. Mike Easley appointed him to the N.C. Film Commission, and Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue hired him as a media consultant.

In South Carolina, Geddings also served as the campaign director for Jim Hodges, who was elected South Carolina's governor in 1998.

It was in that state where questions of conflict of interest were first raised because Geddings continued his private public relations work while serving as Hodges' chief of staff. At the same time, Geddings built a broad pro-lottery coalition that helped pass the games in the Palmetto State.

"This guy, Kevin Geddings, is trouble," said Chris Neeley, state director of the conservative political watchdog group Americans for Prosperity.

Neeley, who fought against the lottery in South Carolina, said he was not surprised when news surfaced that Geddings had been taking money from Scientific Games, a lottery vendor.

On Wednesday, the Secretary of State's office asked state prosecutors to begin a criminal investigation of Scientific Games, company Vice President Alan Middleton and consultants Meredith Norris and Geddings. The three could be charged with a misdemeanor and barred from lobbying in North Carolina for two years if convicted.

The request came a day after Geddings resigned from the state lottery commission and Scientific Games revealed it paid him $24,500 this year for services.

"I worry that what comes from this is that the public becomes more distrustful of the process," said Christie Barbee, president of the N.C. Professional Lobbyists Association.

She said she did not want ethical questions surrounding the lottery to taint the vast majority of lobbyists who follow the rules.

The accusations surrounding Geddings are shining light on the North Carolina's lobbying laws, which the Center for Public Integrity recently gave a failing grade. The center awarded points on the state's lobbying laws in regards to categories such as openness, accountability, and public access to lobbying disclosure forms. Out of a possible 100 points, North Carolina scored 58 points.

The state's ranking should improve when new rules take effect next year that require more disclosure from lobbyists, officials said.

Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation continues to look at Geddings, the lottery and more.

Federal grand jury subpoenas issued last month requested information from House Speaker Jim Black's office about the lottery and video poker industries. The video poker industry made sizable contributions to elect Hodges.

"I think you're going to see a trail that goes all the way back to the video poker industry," Neeley said. "And, I think it's going to provide even more smoke over Jim Black and other top officials in the General Assembly."

Black, who has denied any wrongdoing, said the charges against him are politically motivated. Black's attorney has said the speaker is not a target of a federal investigation and is cooperating with investigators.

Geddings could not be reached for comment.

Photographer:

Gil Hollingsworth

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