Just a few weeks before Gov. Nathan Deal left office, his daughter Carrie Deal Wilder landed a job with the Georgia Lottery that pays $100,000. She started on Jan. 14, the day Brian Kemp succeeded him in office. A Deal staffer, Joy Forth, started the same day in a similar job with the lottery. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

Deal’s daughter landed six-figure state job weeks before he left office

Gov. Nathan Deal’s daughter landed a job with a six-figure salary at the Georgia Lottery shortly before the two-term Republican left office.

Documents obtained by Channel 2 Action News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show that Carrie Deal Wilder was awarded the job, which pays $100,000, as a community relations director for the lottery on Dec. 20 — three days after it was posted.

The records also show another Deal staffer, Joy Forth, was hired for a similar lottery position at the same salary on Jan. 7, the same day she interviewed for the post. Both started Jan. 14, the day that Gov. Brian Kemp took office.

Kemp’s office declined to comment. Deal’s former top aide, Chris Riley, said the lottery followed proper protocol.

“As I recall, there were job vacancies. They applied for the vacancies. They interviewed for the vacancies,” Riley told the AJC. “They were both qualified for the jobs, according to lottery officials. And lottery employees offered the jobs to them after they were interviewed.”

Their hiring is among the most noteworthy of a spate of moves in the final days of Deal’s tenure. Several of his top aides received hefty raises in 2018, and a handful were hired to new posts in the higher education system and at other state agencies.

Kemp has retained several of his predecessor’s department heads and agency chiefs, while others have been replaced. That includes Vernon Keenan, who retired after more than a decade as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s top cop, and several members of the powerful Board of Regents.

Deal’s daughter and her husband, Clint, factored prominently in his run for governor in 2010. The two were forced to file for bankruptcy in July 2009 when a sporting goods store they started in North Georgia failed, and it left Deal and his wife on the hook for millions of dollars in debt.

The governor drained his retirement accounts to pay down the debt and also put his home in Gainesville on the market. He sold the Wilder property to the owner of an adult video and novelty store for $750,000 in 2011.

His last extensive financial disclosure, filed as he ran for another term in 2014, listed no debts from the property.

Wilder and Forth will report to the lottery’s government relations chief. According to the job description, the two are expected to serve as liaisons with lottery regional offices, civic leaders and elected officials.

Wilder’s resume shows that she worked as a business consultant for River Perch, a firm based in Clarkesville, for about five years after her outdoors store closed. River Perch was dissolved as a business in 2017, according to state financial data.

Forth was the head of scheduling and the director of the Governor’s Mansion for Sonny Perdue between 2003 and 2008, before she was hired in 2011 to lead the mansion staff for Deal. State records show she took a pay cut of roughly $20,000 to take the new job.

Both declined requests on Thursday for comment. A lottery spokeswoman, Tandi Reddick, said the agency “welcomes these employees” and “looks forward to their contributions.”

Reddick said that several other candidates applied for the positions, but she refused to provide details, citing privacy laws. That infuriated transparency advocates, who questioned why the lottery did not release the names of the applicants.

“I can’t believe they would interview people and not be able to back it up with releasing the information,” said William Perry of Georgia Ethics Watchdogs.

“This administration has had a history of taking care of friends and family,” Perry said, “and this sounds like what happened with this one.”

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