Lottery board defends CEO selection process

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ATLANTA —

The chairman of the Georgia Lottery Board spoke about the process of finding a new CEO for the first time on Thursday, defending the process.

Channel 2 Action News first reported the leading CEO candidate is Gov. Nathan Deal’s chief financial officer Debbie Dlugolenski Alford, who has no direct experience running a statewide lottery.

"When I look at Debbie's overall qualifications, I'm very comfortable she would do an excellent job," chairman James Braswell told Channel 2’s Lori Geary.

Lottery board members took no official action toward replacing retiring CEO Margaret DeFrancisco on Thursday afternoon.

Critics say they're concerned about the process to choose her successor. 

"To say that Debbie doesn't have lottery experience -- no, she hasn't been a CEO of a lottery, but she has served on this board for three or four years, and she has been a direct liaison between the governor's office,” Braswell said.

"I can't think of another executive position, another leadership position, where we could just find somebody who's nearby and hope that they have on-the-job training," political activist Bryan Long said.

Braswell told Geary the governor's office called board members individually, telling them Alford is the governor's top pick. Braswell said while the board didn't pay an outside consulting firm to conduct the search, they did look at candidates nationwide.

Braswell said by law, the Georgia Lottery Corporation is an independent agency, but it is also linked directly to state government.

"Because the ultimate objective of what we raise is to provide funding for state programs, HOPE and pre-K, you cannot say we are a totally independent entity.  We have to listen to the governor's office," Braswell said.

His argument was not enough to convince state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta.

"It's not putting education first, it's putting cronies first," Fort said.

Braswell said the lottery board could call a meeting as early as next Wednesday to vote on Alford and her salary. 

The lottery CEO position is one of the highest paid in state government. DeFrancisco's current salary is almost $380,000.