LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Lottery Commission's personnel committee recommended Friday that new employees be subject to a six-month probationary period.

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Lottery Commission’s personnel committee recommended Friday that new employees be subject to a six-month probationary period.

Julie Baldridge, interim director of the state lottery program, said she was surprised to learn after she was named head the operation in October that there was no probationary period required for new employees, a practice she said is common throughout state government.

“A probationary period, in my mind, is something that would rarely be used, but it is a good thing to have because sometimes an interview is not enough to know (about a person) … and you might find out after three or four weeks that it’s really not a good fit,” Baldridge said. The proposal, endorsed unanimously, also requires a three-month probationary period for employees who are promoted or reassigned to jobs with equal responsibility.

The probationary period would not apply to the lottery’s executive director, chief operating officer or internal auditor. Those officers work at the pleasure the Lottery Commission, Baldridge said.

The commission has scheduled a meeting Monday to consider the committee’s recommendation.

Baldridge told reporters after Friday’s meeting that the original employee handbook for lottery employees was written by Ernestine Middleton, a former vice president for administration who was fired in October, days after former Executive Director Ernie Passailaigue and another vice president resigned.

The commission is currently conducting a search for a permanent executive director. Baldridge said Friday that 82 people have applied for the job and that the panel will discuss its next move in the hiring process at a meeting Feb. 6. She said she did not know if the commission planned to narrow the field of candidates or take a vote at that meeting.

One lottery commissioner has said he will abstain when the commission votes on hiring a new lottery director to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“There was a suggestion being made that several of the candidates should withdraw their candidacy because they had introduced themselves to me, and rather than cast any aspersions on those candidates, I thought it would just better if I didn’t vote,” commissioner Bruce Engstrom said Friday in an interview. He said two of the candidates — Richard Knight, a former executive at a casino and horse-racing track in Erie, Pa., and Bob Nash, a former Clinton administration aide — “are well-qualified and should be considered by the rest of the commissioners.”

At least one state lawmaker has questioned the contact and it also apparently had been a concern of some of the commissioners.