ATLANTA — The Georgia Lottery Corporation shelled out big bonuses in the guise of "incentive" pay that landed executives thousands of dollars over their normal salaries despite declining ticket sales and an inability to properly fund Georgia's HOPE Scholarship and Pre-K programs.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that more than $260,000 worth of “incentive pay” went to executives in 2011 with the biggest payout - nearly $83,000 - going to then-Lottery President Margaret DeFrancisco.
The paper also reports that last year, DeFrancisco got another big bonus - $75,000 - and top staffers got pay raises. Most state workers have gone several years without raises.
Former House Higher Education Chairman Bill Hembree of Winston, who pushed for limiting lottery bonuses, was discouraged by word of the bonuses.
“The intent was to stop the (bonus) process all together. It’s almost as if they are saying ‘Who cares what the Legislature thinks?’ ” he told the AJC. “It’s wrong. It just sends the wrong message when you’re cutting HOPE and cutting benefits to students.”
Georgia Lottery Board Chairman Jimmy Braswell told the paper that his organization followed the law and that the incentives were to reward increased ticket sales.
“These kind of results don’t just happen,” Braswell told the paper. “They come from a lot of hard work. The spirit of the legislation was to tie any future incentives to performance … it seems to have worked pretty well.”