CT Lottery CEO refuses to testify as to why official was placed on leave
Hearing officer responds, ‘If I had the facility… I might put him in contempt’
By Jon Lender
President/CEO Gregory Smith of the Connecticut Lottery Corp. (CLC) again and again refused final week to say why he placed CLC Vice President Chelsea Turner on paid administrative leave July 15 from her $190,000-a-year process below a state team of workers legislation that gives for “investigation of alleged serious misconduct which could constitute just cause for dismissal.”
“What was the reason that she was placed on administrative leave?” Smith was requested by way of Eric Brown, the legal professional representing ex-CLC safety director Alfred DuPuis, all the way through the most recent continuation of a listening to that started in April on DuPuis’ grievance that he was retaliated towards for being a whistleblower about irregularities and improprieties.
The lottery’s legal professional, Jim Shea, straight away objected. “I’m going to instruct the witness not to answer that question,” stated Shea, of the company Jackson Lewis, which has been employed by way of the CLC to struggle DuPuis’ grievance.
“That calls for information related to a current, ongoing, private personnel matter. For the witness to disclose that information potentially places both the [lottery] corporation and Mr. Smith in legal jeopardy,” Shea stated. “It would prejudice the ongoing processes regarding that employee. And it would be prejudicial to both the employee and to the corporation.”
Shea and Brown wrangled for a lot of Wednesday morning, amid rigidity and low verbal fireworks, however, in spite of everything, Smith by no means replied that query.
Smith had ordered the involuntary leave simplest days after Turner gave explosive sworn testimony at a DuPuis grievance listening to on July nine that round 2014, she contacted a pal within the FBI about what she noticed as suspicious movements by way of Frank Farricker, then the CLC’s governing board chairman. The FBI quickly had then-lottery president/CEO Anne Noble secretly file no less than one dialog with Farricker, the use of an digital instrument hidden in an eyeglass case.
Nothing got here of the FBI’s legal investigation 5 years in the past. But final month’s disclosure of it by way of Turner introduced renewed scrutiny by way of legislators and the governor of the quasi-public lottery — which has been accused in recent times of abusing the particular autonomy it enjoys when compared to common govt department departments.
One complaint lodged towards the revenue-raising company has been a loss of public transparency — and Wednesday’s repeated refusal to solution Brown’s query won’t assist on that rating.
After Smith first refused to solution the query, Brown stated that Turner’s credibility, as the CLC’s leader witness towards DuPuis’ claims of retaliation, may well be suffering from no matter reason why she’s been placed on leave. She’s been barred from lottery headquarters in Rocky Hill except she will get explicit permission.
About an hour’s value of head-butting ensued between Brown and Shea.
Frustrations saved emerging till the listening to’s presiding officer — Michele Mount, the state leader human rights referee for the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities — stated of Smith: “If I had the power of contempt, I would put him in contempt. I just don’t think there’s a legal basis for him not to answer the question.”
Brown saved asking the cause of Turner’s leave. Shea sooner or later allowed Smith to solution “no” to positive explicit questions, such as whether or not Turner was placed on leave as a result of she had lied (which might have an effect on her credibility) or as a result of she had acted as a whistleblower by way of going to the FBI (which Brown stated would point out a tradition of retaliation).
But Brown wasn’t glad with responses about what the rationale wasn’t. He pressed for what the rationale was, and he began wondering whether or not Smith’s solutions had been fair. Brown stated he did not purchase Smith’s commentary that Turner’s leave was unrelated to her July nine testimony about going to the FBI 5 years in the past.
He requested Smith: “Is it still your testimony that even though she was placed on administrative leave shortly after she testified [on July 9] at this hearing, her placement on administrative leave had nothing to do with what’s occurred at this hearing?”
“Yes,” Smith stated.
“So it was just a just a coincidence that she was placed on administrative leave?” Brown stated.
“Again, your honor, I’m going to object to this,” Shea stated. “This just goes on and on and on.”
“He answered the question,” Mount stated.
“But I don’t think he’s being truthful,” Brown stated. “He’s subject to perjury if he continues to say ‘no’ and [if] that’s a false answer.”
Things were given so sophisticated that Mount, at one level, attempted to sum up what Smith had testified to. “Let me recap,” she stated. “[Turner’s administrative leave] wasn’t for whistleblowing reasons. [It had] nothing to do with this hearing. You didn’t tell her why she was being placed on administrative leave, and it was [for a] reason [that] was never written down or communicated. So, for reasons known only to you at this point, she was put on administrative leave? Or did you tell the board why she was on administrative leave?”
It was “for reasons known to me,” Smith stated, including: “I did not tell the board.”
“Okay,” Mount stated. “I don’t think we’re going to get much more from this witness.”
‘Do you refuse to solution?’
“Well, I think I can try,” Brown stated, and he resumed, drawing responses of “no” from Smith to questions together with: “Was she on administrative leave because of any of the news articles … in the Hartford Courant reporting on the culture of the Connecticut Lottery Corp.? … Because she is a woman? … For engaging in some kind of misconduct? … Because she is ill?”
And then he got here again to his unique query: “Why was she placed on administrative leave?”
Shea objected once more, for his up to now mentioned causes, including: “The witness has been instructed not to answer, and he refuses to answer.”
Brown insisted on listening to that from Smith: “Do you refuse to answer, Mr. Smith? Do you refuse to answer?” Smith was silent. Brown went on: “You’re the president of the Connecticut Lottery Corp. You’ve been president … for a little over a year. You were brought into this position after much upheaval within the … corporation. A great deal of public trust has has been placed in you as the president of the Connecticut Lottery Corp. Do you refuse to answer the question as to why Ms. Turner was placed on administrative leave?”
“I’m instructing the witness not to answer,” Shea stated.
“And do you refuse to answer it, Mr. Smith?” Brown stated.
Shea: “I’ve instructed the witness not to answer the question.”
“But you’re not on the stand — he is,” Mount stated. “He can say he refuses to answer.”
“Under instructions of my legal counsel, I will not be answering that question,” Smith stated.
There was a pause, and Brown introduced right into a an identical speech finishing in the similar query: “Mr. Smith, you are the president of the Connecticut Lottery Corp. [which] is under great scrutiny from both the General Assembly and the governor’s office because of the way it’s conducted its business over the last several years. You’ve been entrusted with the power to monitor that organization in the public’s interest. You have placed Chelsea Turner on administrative leave. Do you refuse to answer why Ms. Turner was placed on administrative leave by you, shortly after she testified at the last hearing before this office that she had contacted the FBI?”
“Your honor, I just instructed the witness not to answer,” Shea stated. “And the theatrics are really a little over the top.”
Brown continued: “Mr. Smith, do you still refuse to answer?”
“I am instructing the witness again not to answer,” Shea stated.
“Let him put that on the record, please,” Mount stated, exhaling audibly.
“Under advisement of my legal counsel, I will not be answering that question,” Smith stated.
“Your honor, I ask that you take a negative inference based on the witness’s refusal to answer,” Brown stated.
“I will take that under advisement,” Mount stated.
Earlier within the listening to, Shea had argued towards Mount’s recommendation that she would possibly draw a unfavorable inference from Smith’s refusal to solution the query. Shea known as it “patently unfair” as it “places us in the position of either taking an adverse inference or opening ourselves up to liability.”
The listening to was adjourned and can proceed Nov. five, except any other date opens sooner than then. Wednesday’s resumed listening to got here after any other one on Tuesday. Witnesses incorporated State Auditor John Geragosian, who reiterated his place of work’s written findings from past due 2018 that Turner’s price of “gross neglect” towards DuPuis, in reference to a Jan. 1, 2018 drawing that was botched by way of his subordinates, may have been retaliatory.
Shea and his fellow lawyer from Jackson Lewis, Carolyn Trotta, requested questions to elicit solutions from witnesses that minimized each how a lot whistleblowing DuPuis had finished and what he’d exposed about fraud by way of lottery outlets that brought about shutdown of the five Card Cash recreation in 2015. DuPuis retired in past due 2018 fairly than go back to paintings and face the prospective disciplinary motion he known as over the top and retaliatory.
The lottery’s present troubles had been a part of what led Gov. Ned Lamont to not too long ago order his leader of group of workers, Ryan Drajewicz, and his leader working officer, Paul Mounds, Jr., to read about the control and operations each the lottery and the scandal-plagued Connecticut Port Authority.
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano and Rep. Joe Verrengia, D-West Hartford, co-chairman of the legislative committee that has carried out investigative hearings into the lottery’s issues in recent times, had been in quest of solutions from lottery officers about Turner’s contacting the FBI. They’ve additionally talked of in all probability curtailing the autonomy of the lottery and possibly different quasi-public companies.
The Department of Consumer Protection, which regulates the CLC, additionally says it is opening a probe into Turner’s and Noble’s contacts with the FBI.
In the times after being placed on administrative leave, in mid-July, Turner requested to be placed on ill leave and took a leave below the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Smith has advised Fasano and Verrengia that Turner can be absent about 12 weeks. Lottery officers say within the interim, any doable disciplinary procedure has been stalled.
Meanwhile, the CLC’s governing board of administrators Thursday voted to bring together a job power of 3 of its most up-to-date participants to paintings with Smith on recommending an out of doors regulation company to examine “events occurring three to five years ago, some of which surfaced during [the July 9] hearing.”
Thanks to William H. for the end.