Geddings Resigns From N.C. Lottery Commission
Posted November 1, 2005 9:53 a.m. EST
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina lottery commissioner Kevin Geddings resigned Tuesday because of criticism over his past ties to a lobbyist who works for a potential gambling vendor.
Geddings disclosed last month he is friends with Alan Middleton, the vice president for government relations at Scientific Games Corp., a leading provider of instant-win tickets and lottery software. He also said he had hired Middleton several years ago, before Middleton worked at the company, to work on public relations projects.
An appointee of House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, Geddings had pledged to recuse himself from any final votes on the hiring of lottery contractors to avoid the appearance of impropriety. He had repeatedly said he intended to remain on the commission.
In his resignation letter to state Lottery Commission Chairman Charlie Sanders, Geddings wrote that the "persistent negative publicity" surrounding his relationship with Middleton detracted from the work of the commission.
"Although I believe my experience with the successful education lottery startup in South Carolina could have helped our state's new lottery, its public image in these early days is much more important," he wrote.
From Washington, D.C., Sanders told WRAL by phone that he was surprised by Geddings' resignation, and he had a mixed reaction.
"To the extent that we can go about our business and not have to worry about negative publicity, I think that's a plus," Sanders said. "To the extent that we have lost a resource, I think Commissioner Geddings' resignation is a loss."
Geddings, a former chief of staff to South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges, owns radio stations and a public relations firm in Charlotte. He was the only commissioner with lottery experience. In South Carolina, he led the pro-lottery campaign before a referendum in 2000 that allowed the creation of that state's lottery.
Geddings is the second person on the nine-member commission to resign in the past week. Former Charlotte City Council member Malachi Greene cited his health and a lack of time for his resignation.
Geddings didn't immediately return a phone call Tuesday seeking comment.
"I hope that the speaker will actually find somebody who can serve who doesn't have any relationships with anybody who knows anything about running the lottery," Geddings told Charlotte radio station WBT on Tuesday. "I actually think it helped that I knew something about a lottery, but, clearly in this day and age, that's not an asset."
Black will have to choose a replacement for Geddings. In a statement, Black said it was unfortunate that Geddings' experience and background became a liability.
"I appreciate his initial willingness to serve and now his decision to step aside," Black said.
Rep. Hugh Holliman, D-Davidson, one of the co-sponsors of the lottery legislation signed into law by Gov. Mike Easley in August, had urged Geddings to step down.
"I really believe that the members of the commission should be above reproach, and he certainly had a conflict of interest," Holliman said.
Geddings was the only commission member with any business experience with lotteries.
A hired consultant can provide that same kind of experience, Holliman said.
"I don't think there's anything that's happened that can't be fixed," he said.