A top D.C. lottery official under investigation for possible conflict of interest in connection with the loan of a car to his wife by a firm that does business with the D.C. Lottery Board has resigned, a lottery spokeswoman said yesterday.

Alex Exum, the lottery's $45,048-a-year executive assistant in charge of marketing and advertising, resigned Wednesday "to return to the private sector," the spokeswoman said.

"Mr. Exum had been considering a return to the private sector and at this time he felt it was appropriate to make a change," lottery board general counsel Jeanette Michael said in a statement.

A 1984 Honda Accord was lent to Exum's wife, Lolita, by Han Yong Cho, president of a firm that rents space to the lottery board, about the same time that the firm obtained approval to do more than $30,000 in business with the board.

Earlier this month, lottery board Executive Director Douglass Gordon said he had asked the D.C. inspector general's office to investigate and Exum was placed on administrative leave. "It certainly on the surface represents a potential conflict of interest; whether it is or not will be determined in the investigation," Gordon said.

Exum has said through his lawyer that Cho lent his wife the car, but he said the loan and Cho's business ties with his wife had nothing to do with him or with the lottery board's involvement with Cho.

Cho has said he lent the car to Exum's wife after he asked her in January or February to help find new accounts for his wholesale food business. He said he had a business relationship with Mrs. Exum that began long before he started doing business with the lottery board.

Michael said last night that so far as she knew the inspector general's investigation was still under way. D.C. inspector general Joyce Blalock could not be reached for comment.

"I don't think the resignation had any relation to it," Exum's attorney, Mark B. Sandground, said last night of the inspector general's report. He said he did not know if his client was contemplating any specific private sector opportunities.

"I have no comment other than that I wish to return to the private sector," Exum said last night.

Sandground said Exum submitted his resignation Wednesday afternoon to Gordon, effective immediately. Michael said Gordon was in Atlanta last night and could not be reached.

Purchasing and contracting procedures of the lottery have been criticized repeatedly by D.C. Auditor Otis Troupe and others, including City Council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) who has oversight of the lottery.

"I don't think his [Exum's] resignation is going to change public perception" of the operation of the lottery, Winter said last night. She said the lottery should be revamped by the mayor to increase its efficiency and ability to generate revenue.

Troupe has recommended that Exum be fired for his role in the lottery board's purchase of a video cassette recorder that has been missing. The inspector general has also been investigating the purchase of the recorder. Exum has said he did not receive the item and said he was confident of exoneration.