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Lottery resistant to state “wide-ranging” investigation into its operations

March 16, 2018 GMT

HARTFORD — One day after the Department of Consumer Protection announced a new “wide-ranging” investigation into the Connecticut Lottery Corporation, the Lottery’s board of directors fired back, questioning the investigation and ignoring a request to cease employee discipline.

The lottery, a quasi-public agency, questioned Thursday whether DCP has the authority to examine everything it wants to and suggested DCP may need investigating, too.

“We’re going to be talking to the Commissioner (of DCP Michelle Seagull) about areas they have the authority to look at and what they may not,” said Don DeFronzo, chairman of the board of the Lottery Corp.

“I do think there are systemic problems not only with the lottery end of it, but with the DCP end of it,” he said. “I am willing to put the lottery under the microscope; I hope she will willing to DCP under the microscope as well.”

The Lottery has been plagued by three gaming scandals since 2015, the most recent a Super Drawing on January 1. That blunder, which wrongly excluded 100,000 ticket blunders from the game, cost the state nearly $1 million and several Lottery employees were placed on administrative leave.

“DCP’s Gaming Division will move forward with their statutory duty to complete an investigation,” said Lora Rae Anderson, director of communications for the Department of Consumer Protection. “In the case that the CLC Board of Directors has ideas about how to improve the communication structure between the CLC, and it’s regulator, DCP, we remain happy to have that conversation and to discuss those ideas.”

State statute says DCP must “regulate the activities of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation to assure the integrity of the state lottery.” But DeFronzo said it was “unclear” whether DCP can investigate the lottery’s day-to-day operations, finances and personnel matters.

DCP will call on any other state agencies needed to complete the investigation to the breadth it desires, Anderson said. It may seek legislative action if necessary.

DeFronzo hoped the Lottery and DCP could agree on a third-party group to investigate the lottery instead. He voiced concerns that DCP’s investigation would not be objective because based on Seagull’s letter announcing the investigation, “it looks like a number of conclusions have already been drawn,” he said.

DeFronzo said the lottery would not follow DCP’s request to stop discipline measures against three employees involved in the New Year’s Day drawing.

“You can’t run an agency if you are going to allow outside agencies to tell you when to discipline, how to discipline and who to discipline,” DeFronzo said. He noted that one of the employees had already agreed to and completed a suspension.

DCP’s new investigation was sparked in part by a joint letter sent to the Department from Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, and Rep. Joe Verrengia, D-West Hartford, on Monday.

Their letter suggested one of the employees placed on leave by the Lottery, Security Director Alfred DuPuis, might be the victim of retaliation by lottery leadership. They questioned why the lottery conducted an internal investigation of the New Year’s Day blunder, but did not for an earlier scandal with the Five Card Cash game.

“You may remember that in the 5 Card Cash matter the CLC was heavily criticized for not conducting an internal investigation,” DeFronzo said. “It is ironic, to say the least, that it is now being criticized for conducting an investigation and issuing a report which is viewed as too severe and specific in its findings.”

DeFronzo vaguely suggested that Fasano and Verrengia were only calling for DCP intervention in an effort to “circle the wagons” to protect some disciplined lottery employees.

“Clearly, there is a concern for certain individuals involved,” he said.

Fasano, in an interview, repeated concerns for the treatment of DuPuis that he previous voiced in a lottery hearing before the Public Safety and Security Committee in February. He thought it was unfair that DuPuis was placed on leave and was not notified of the hearing, in which his actions were discussed so he could defend himself and present his side of the story.

“You are blaming somebody and then not giving him the opportunity to show up at the hearing?” Fasano said. “This needs a second look.”

Fasano called the quasi-public agency “out of control” and defended the legislature’s right to call for its investigation and oversight. He suggested the lottery wouldn’t resist investigation if they did not have something to hide.

“Thou dost protest too much,” he said.

DeFronzo countered, “They’re good guys but they are way off base on this,” referring to Fasano and Verrengia.

emunson@greenwichtime.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson