Advocates of Georgia’s HOPE scholarship questioned the next potential head of the Georgia Lottery as the board moved closer to making a selection.
Sources confirmed to Channel 2’s Lori Geary that Debbie Dlugolenski is the leading candidate to become the Georgia Lottery CEO. Dlugolenski is a member of the lottery board and currently services as director of Gov. Nathan Deal’s Office of Planning and Budget.
"She is there to say yes to Gov. Deal. It's as clear as day," said Bryan Long, executive director of Better Georgia.
Long said Dlugolenski would be the first person to run the Georgia Lottery with no state lottery experience. Her husband, Dean Alford, is a former state lawmaker who Gov. Deal appointed to the Board of Regents earlier this year.
"I would certainly use the word 'cronyism'. There are nine million Georgians but Gov. Deal has appointed this husband and wife to multiple boards?" Long questioned.
Through an open records request, Geary learned the board has not hired any recruiting or consulting firms in its nationwide search but did receive unsolicited phone calls for the position.
"If a national search is what it takes, then that's what Georgia students deserve," Janice Barrocas told Geary.
Barrocas started the group Hope for Georgia to educate students and parents about recent cuts to the scholarship and pre-K program.
"I can't think of another executive position, another leadership position where we would just find somebody who's nearby and hope that they have on-the-job training,” Long said.
Gwinnett County developer Dan O’Leary was not available for an interview but released a statement. O’Leary has proposed a $1 billion entertainment complex that would feature video lottery terminals – only with the Georgia Lottery’s approval.
“I don’t know Ms. Dlugolenski personally. But based on her budget and finance background, and her experience on the lottery board, she clearly knows the challenges that HOPE is facing and seems to be a very qualified choice to continue the stellar performance of the Georgia Lottery,” O’Leary said.
The governor’s office told Geary they would not confirm or deny that Dlugolenski is the leading candidate.
Current CEO Margaret DeFrancisco is set to retire at the end of the year.