‘Wide Ranging’ Probe Into Lottery Planned After Blast From Key Legislators

March 15, 2018

Article as it appeared in the Hartford Courant


Commissioner Michelle Seagull of the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) said Wednesday she “will open a wide ranging investigation into the operation and management” of the Connecticut Lottery Corp. — potentially adding to the woes of the gaming agency where turmoil has become the norm.

The investigation would go beyond the DCP’s February report on a Jan. 1 blunder in the Super Draw game — and would broadly delve into enduring problems dating back at least three years at the quasi-public agency that raises $330 million in annual state revenue.

Seagull promised the probe in a letter to two key lawmakers — Senate GOP Leader Len Fasano and Democratic Rep. Joe Verrengia, co-chairman of the legislative public safety committee — who Monday asked her to have DCP conduct a “top to bottom review” of the lottery and enlist the aid of other agencies, such as the state’s Auditors of Public Accounts.

Fasano and Verrengia pointed at problems including:

  • What they consider excessive and inconsistent disciplinary action, taken or contemplated against lottery employees, after a Jan. 1 blunder caused 100,000 of 214,601 eligible tickets to be excluded from the selection of winners in the New Year’s Super Draw game. The mistake resulted in a do-over drawing on Jan. 16 and a loss of about $1 million.
  • “[T]he appearance of selective investigation and retaliation” against the lottery’s corporation’s security director, Alfred DuPuis, for his “forthright testimony” during investigative hearings last year by Verrengia’s committee into a 2015 fraud scandal surrounding the 5 Card Cash game. DuPuis was placed on a paid leave last month, pending potential disciplinary action, after an internal investigation report accused him of “gross neglect … of his duties” in the Jan. 1 drawing snafu, and the lawmakers suggested that it may be payback for last year.
  • An alleged “revolving door of cronyism” dating to September 2016, when former lottery CEO Anne Noble stepped down and entered a lucrative “sweetheart separation agreement.” Chelsea Turner, a “long-time Lottery employee and protégé of Ms. Noble’s,” has been interim CEO since mid-2017.

Turner also has been seeking the permanent CEO job, which pays $200,000 or so, and late last year became the only in-state resident among a few finalists after a national personnel search by the lottery board. That search still hasn’t found a successor 18 months after Noble stepped down.

The two lawmakers said there’s an “obvious need for experienced, independent and credible leadership to step in.”

‘Lack of Progress’

Seagull said in her letter Wednesday to the lawmakers that the DCP — which is the state’s official regulator of the lottery agency — agrees that “a formal review of [lottery] operations would be beneficial, especially in light of the lack of progress hiring a permanent President and CEO.”

DCP agrees that the “gross neglect” accusation against DuPuis is “troubling,” Seagull wrote. “Mr. DuPuis cooperated with the legislature [during Verrengia’s hearings] and with DCP during the 5 Card Cash investigation. We are concerned that his treatment may discourage others from such cooperation in the future.” She said DCP would ask the lottery to hold off on further disciplinary actions against DuPuis and others “pending our investigation.”

DCP “had been hopeful that, after the departure of Ms. Noble, personnel and culture changes would be made to ensure the integrity of CLC operations,” Seagull wrote. “Unfortunately, we share your concern that issues stemming from Ms. Noble’s leadership remain within the CLC.”

Seagull also wrote that the lottery “has repeatedly misunderstood the relationship between itself and DCP, their regulator” — and even “has referred to DCP as their vendor.”

“It was a little over a year ago that former Lottery President Anne Noble stepped down following a DCP investigation into rampant fraud in the 5 Card Cash game,” Fasano and Verrengia wrote. “Despite the fact that DCP found sufficient cause to revoke Ms. Noble’s license, which would render her unqualified to hold any job at the Lottery, the Lottery negotiated a sweetheart separation agreement that allowed her to collect almost $500,000 in additional salary and benefits and bridge to a state pension.”

However, Noble’s attorney, Raymond Hassett of Glastonbury, issued a statement Wednesday, saying, “For the record, Ms. Noble turned in her license when she left in January, 2017. Claims that her license was ever revoked not only violate her right to due process but are completely and categorically false.”

Noble Blasts DCP

Hassett also said in his statement that Noble hasn’t run the lottery since 2016 and “had no involvement” in the recent problem with Super Draw, “a game which ran smoothly on her watch.”

He said Noble offered to testify in Verrengia’s hearings on 5 Card Cash last year, “but was not permitted to do so by the Legislature. Instead, the legislative committee relied upon [former] CLC Chairman Frank Farricker, who orchestrated Ms. Noble’s departure, and representatives of [DCP], who offered smoke and mirrors when deflecting their own ineptitudes and failures.”

He said Noble “relied upon the DCP to monitor and regulate the CLC. She even asked the DCP to review the 5 Card Cash misfortune” instead of her own Human Resources Director Jane Rooney, “to promote transparency and integrity. This included a review of her own involvement. The result was an surprisingly incomplete report, replete with only innuendo and unsubstantiated conclusions. It was a report that did not include any interview of Ms. Noble or a review of files she had compiled, despite her repeated attempts to provide valuable information.”

“Ms. Rooney played no role in negotiating the terms of Ms. Noble’s departure, contrary to any such allegations,” he said, adding: “The claim that the recent incompetence relates to her tenure is patently inaccurate, defamatory and misleading. The recent CLC transgressions fully support Noble’s belief of systemic incompetence by DCP and concern expressed during and after her tenure for which she has been retaliated against at an unprecedented and unjustifiable level. Ms. Noble welcomes a truly independent investigation into the 5 Card Cash matter. The use of the DCP is equivalent to placing the proverbial fox in charge of the hen house.”