- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida’s former lottery secretary, who abruptly resigned last year, has landed a new job with the help of Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.

Cynthia O’Connell began work last week as the director of the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, where she will be responsible for raising money for scholarships that are handed out by the organization.

O’Connell will be paid $100,000 a year.

During her four and a half years leading the Florida Lottery, O’Connell pushed lottery sales to nearly $6 billion through an aggressive effort involving scratch-off tickets and expanded sales to retailers who had previously resisted selling lottery tickets. But she resigned after a series of news stories detailed her work habits and spending, including questions about her use of an agency credit card.

O’Connell, a department veteran and one time public relations firm executive, was not asked by Scott to resign at the time from her $141,000 a year job. But she stepped down a day after a one-on-one meeting in which the governor urged her to make a “decision in the best interest of her family.”

Hours after she resigned, the Lottery Department released O’Connell’s credit card records that had been previously requested by The Associated Press. Those records show that O’Connell used her corporate American Express card for a wide array of personal expenses at department stores, grocery stores, hair salons as well as car washes and a trip to the dentist. O’Connell paid off the balance with her own money, which frequently included late fees.

The foundation is affiliated with the Florida Prepaid College Board, which manages the program that allows Floridians to purchase pre-paid tuition plans. The foundation administers several scholarship programs.

Florida Prepaid College Board spokeswoman Shannon Colavecchio said O’Connell was recommended for the job by the governor’s office. She was viewed as an “ideal candidate” because of her extensive ties to the state’s colleges and universities, according to the spokeswoman.

O’Connell, whose late husband was once president of the University of Florida, spent 10 years on the UF board of trustees.

“She is an ideal fit for what we are trying to do,” Colavecchio said. “She has the connections to help raise money for the scholarships that the foundation provides for children across Florida.”

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