Former lottery board member speaks out about new CEO choice

by: Jim Strickland Updated:

Deal immediately let it be known he favored lottery board member and state Budget Director Debbie Dlugolenski Alford for the job.
ATLANTA —

Former Georgia Lottery Corporation board member Fran Rogers granted her first-ever TV interview to Channel 2's Jim Strickland, about her abrupt resignation.

Rogers cited "undue influence" allegedly imposed on the board by Gov. Nathan Deal over the choice of a new lottery CEO to replace the retiring Margaret DeFrancisco.

"We really should have had, I believe, the ability to go out there without any influence whatsoever and attract the best candidates," Rogers said.

Rogers said after DeFrancisco announced her plan to retire, Deal immediately let it be known he favored lottery board member and state Budget Director Debbie Dlugolenski Alford for the job.

"He didn't say, 'You have to hire this person.' He never said that. It's just, this was his candidate, and because it came out so early in the process, it destroyed the process to be honest with you," Rogers said.

Rogers said top national lottery talent balked at applying. She said a national search firm would not have even been necessary, since DeFrancisco could have simply made a few calls to industry sources to create a pool of quality candidates.

"We didn't even have an internal candidate apply, and we have been grooming people. That's what corporations do," said Rogers.

In her retirement announcement obtained by Strickland, DeFrancisco warned, "The learning curve is too steep and the changes coming too rapidly to have a rookie at the helm."

Critics have charged Dlugolenski is too inexperienced to run a $3.8 billion business. Rogers doesn't go that far.

"Do I think that she's smart and can learn it? Yes," she said.

Rogers said with escalating HOPE scholarship expenses, any new CEO will have to deal with that and another controversy: casino-type video lottery terminals.

"If you want us to give more money, then we're going to have to have VLTs. Give me a break," she said.

State Democrats issued a released criticizing Deal's handling of the lottery CEO search.

The governor's office is defending is choice of Dlugolenski, the only named finalist for the position.

Dlugolenski is declining interview requests until after a vote next week.