Local News

Prosecutors Again Focus On Geddings' Ties To Scientific Games

Posted September 28, 2006 10:45 a.m. EDT

— Prosecutors tried Wednesday to show that a for-profit lottery contractor quietly helped finance a set of radio ads targeting holdout state senators in the days before North Carolina lawmakers passed a state lottery.

Questions about Scientific Games' participation in the ad campaign arose as the federal government continued to offer evidence that the company had a significant relationship with Kevin Geddings before he was appointed to North Carolina's lottery commission.

The ads were produced by Geddings' public relations firm on behalf of the North Carolina Association of Educators in the waning days of the 2005 session, which ended with the passage of the lottery on Aug. 30, 2005.

Geddings is charged with fraud for failing to disclose to the State Board of Ethics that his Charlotte-based public relations firm received more than $250,000 from Scientific Games or companies it acquired.

He was named to the lottery commission on Sept. 22, 2005, but resigned Nov. 1, 2005, hours before Scientific Games disclosed that it had paid him $24,500 in that year for communications work. The New York-based company was later an unsuccessful bidder for work with the state's new lottery.

The NCAE, which backed the lottery, paid for a set of radio commercials in mid-August in hopes of putting voter pressure on three state senators to vote yes on the lottery legislation, which at the time appeared on the verge of failing.

The group paid $38,000, using grant money from its national affiliate, the National Education Association, NCAE governmental relations manager Cecil Banks testified Wednesday. A line at the end of the commercials noted they were paid for by the state teachers' organization.

A Sept. 2, 2005, invoice entered as evidence earlier this week, from Geddings' firm to Scientific Games, included a bill of $4,500 for "media production." The company paid by check on Sept. 23, according to another document in evidence.

Asked by prosecutor John Stuart Bruce whether he knew Scientific Games had contributed to the radio campaign, Banks said Wednesday he believed the NCAE's payment was supposed to cover the full cost.

"I certainly was not informed that someone else was going to be involved," he said. "We would've done this as an original effort. We would not have wanted to enter into this with someone else."

NEA regional representative Scott Anderson testified that he recommended that Banks hire Geddings, a longtime friend and professional associate, and was paid $1,000 by Geddings for the referral.

Anderson said he knew Geddings "had someone" who was going to help finance some part of the cost of the campaign, and believed it was Scientific Games Corp. lobbyist Alan Middleton. He didn't pass along that information to Banks or his superiors at the NEA.

Middleton's name also arose when Geddings called Anderson to say he had been named to the lottery commission. Anderson said he was surprised that state House Speaker Jim Black nominated Geddings because he wasn't aware the men knew each other, and asked how it came about.

"He said he thought Alan Middleton had a role in it," Anderson said.

Black, D-Mecklenburg, has said he didn't know Geddings worked for Scientific Games and, if he had, wouldn't have recommended him for the commission.

Another powerful Democratic lawmaker testified Wednesday about Geddings' efforts to get the North Carolina lottery legislation passed.

State Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand said Geddings, Scientific Games lobbyist Meredith Norris -- a former Black aide -- and a man he believed to be Middleton came to his office in Fayetteville before he was due to talk at a forum on the lottery in May 2005.

The appointment was listed on his calendar as "lottery prep," though Rand -- a longtime lottery proponent -- said he needed no coaching.

"There's nothing unusual for people to come and talk to me. That's what you do," Rand said. "There's no telling how many people I talk to in a week -- about 1,000 people."

Shown an invoice in which Geddings billed Scientific Games $5,000 for attending the meeting, Rand said he was unaware that Geddings had been paid to be there.

The president of South Carolina's Francis Marion University also testified Wednesday about meetings with Geddings and Middleton.

Luther "Fred" Carter said he met with the two at least once in 2005, and spoke with both men during several conference calls. The company paid Carter $2,500 for his consulting work, which he said focused on South Carolina politics and the public perception of the lottery in that state.

If found guilty, Geddings could be sentenced to 40 years in prison, but so far he is feeling confident.

"The more the truth gets out, the closer we are to, hopefully, not having to go to jail for 40 years," he said.