LITTLE ROCK — A Georgia company that at one time was interested in providing consulting services to the Arkansas lottery complained Thursday that the Legislature violated principles of transparency and fairness by hiring a different company without taking bids.

LITTLE ROCK — A Georgia company that at one time was interested in providing consulting services to the Arkansas lottery complained Thursday that the Legislature violated principles of transparency and fairness by hiring a different company without taking bids.


The state senator who proposed the sole-source contract said the contract was thoroughly vetted in legislative committee hearings.


The state Lottery Commission took bids in August for a performance audit of the lottery, which has experienced declining sales. On Sept. 19, however, the Legislative Council voted to approve a request from Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, to award a contract for a performance audit to the North American division of British-based Camelot Global Services, without taking bids.


The Legislative Council agreed to pat Camelot $149,500, plus up to $20,000 in reimbursement of travel expenses.


Camelot had inquired about the Lottery Commission’s request for proposals, or RFP, but never bid for the project.


Another company that inquired about the project but never submitted a bid to the Lottery Commission is Thorsborg Institute of Roswell, Ga. On Thursday, Thorsborg CEO Kip Peterson sent a letter to Hickey criticizing the Legislature’s decision.


Peterson noted that there was an existing request for proposals before the Legislature acted and said that "your committee’s usurpation of this process and the subsequent sole-source contract with a foreign company (that missed the deadline on the official RFP) is perceived in the global lottery industry as an indicator of less than transparent Arkansas governmental operations.


"Considering the past scandals involving the Arkansas Lottery and now this ill-advised putsch of lottery management with a hired consultant publicly stating a conclusion before the review started will not generate confidence in the Arkansas lottery players," Peterson said in the letter.


Camelot officials suggested during a Sept. 18 legislative committee meeting that monitor games — which Hickey opposes — may not be a good fit for the Arkansas lottery.


Peterson concluded with a recommendation that the Legislature defer to the Lottery Commission’s original plan to award a contract though a bidding process but said that "in any case, we will not participate as it is apparent that rule of law and ethics have different definitions in the state of Arkansas."


Hickey said Thursday there was "no basis at all" to the claim that the process lacked transparency.


The contract with Camelot "went through four committees. I think we vetted that thing every which way possible," he said.


Hickey said Camelot is uniquely qualified for the project because it operates the UK Lottery.


"This lottery, I think that it’s such a finite-type business. I compared it to, if you’re going to go out there and try to operate a nuclear plant, your best course of action is to have an entity that had already run it and operated it to know how to do it the best way, and that is our goal," he said.


Lottery Director Bishop Woosley and Lottery Commission Chairman John "Smokey" Campbell III said in September they had no objection to the Legislature choosing its own company to review the lottery.


A team from Camelot has been at the lottery’s headquarters conducting interviews since Monday, lottery spokesman Patrick Ralston said. Hickey said he expects the company to present a report to lawmakers in early December.