Lottery workers' bonuses draw ire

ATLANTA --- Top Georgia Republicans are calling for a review of the bonuses awarded to Georgia Lottery officials.

Georgia Lottery President Margaret DeFrancisco and her employees collected nearly $3 million in bonuses this year, a sum that has mystified Georgia legislators who three years ago tightened requirements for the lottery-funded HOPE scholarship to keep it financially solvent.

House Higher Education Committee Chair Bill Hembree said the figures were "insane" and Senate Majority Whip Mitch Seabaugh called the bonuses "absolutely absurd" and said he wanted to re-examine the group's structure.

"There is no accountability, so they can do what they want -- take the money and run and be happy with it," Mr. Seabaugh told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution .

Ms. DeFrancisco got a bonus of $236,500 -- which combined with her $286,000 salary, is about four times what Gov. Sonny Perdue earns..

Lottery officials say the bonuses are needed to stay competitive and keep employees focused. They contend they have been good stewards of ticket money, increasing each year the funding that goes to the popular prekindergarten and HOPE scholarship, which provides tuition, book and fee money to college students who have at least a "B'' average.

"We've always had incentives, and it's worked very well in terms of motivating people," said Tony Campbell, chairman of the lottery board.

Bonuses have long been awarded to lottery officials, but they are now 10 to 15 times greater than in 1993, the lottery's first year.

Each of the roughly 260 lottery employees are eligible for the bonuses. Many of the rank-and-file staffers receive salaries and a bonus based on sales figures and personal evaluations, and this year they are adding profit to the equation, Ms. DeFrancisco said. The top management bonuses are already tied to profit.

Lottery staffers also sometimes get higher pay raises than state employees. Lottery employees got raises of about 4.4 percent this year, compared to the 3 percent raise going to teachers and state employees this fiscal year.

But Ms. DeFrancisco said some of the perks have been cut back. She also said it's not fair to compare the lottery to state agencies, because it raises all the money it spends rather than relying on appropriations from the state.

REVIEW URGED

Top Georgia officials want a review of bonuses awarded to Georgia Lottery officials.

WHY? Nearly $3 million in bonuses was collected by lottery officials this year.

WHAT THE BOSS SAYS: Georgia Lottery President Margaret DeFrancisco says lottery officials need the bonuses to stay competitive and keep employees focused.

WHAT LEGISLATORS SAY: The bonuses are "absurd," and the group's structure should be re-examined.