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Texas lottery panel will consider dismissing director

Jul 6, 2005, 8:51 am

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Texas Lottery

The three-person panel that oversees the Texas Lottery Commission will meet behind closed doors Monday to decide whether the agency's executive director should be fired for inflating the advertised jackpots for the popular Lotto Texas game.

Lottery Commission Chairman C. Thomas Clowe said Tuesday that he could not comment on the matter. But in two public meetings in less than a week, Clowe has harshly criticized Executive Director Reagan Greer, saying that he had deceived the lottery-playing public and that the "integrity and the honesty" of the state agency had been put at risk.

"The agenda item speaks for itself," Clowe said, referring to the meeting notice for Monday published on the lottery's Web site. "Beyond that, it would be inappropriate for me to comment."

Meanwhile, officials confirmed Tuesday that lottery security director Mike Pitcock has left the agency. Pitcock is the second lottery executive to leave since reports that the Lotto Texas jackpot for the June 8 drawing was advertised at $8 million even though it was clear to officials that ticket sales would support a jackpot no higher than $6.5 million.

Lee Deviney, the head of the lottery's financial administration office, was fired after sending Greer an e-mail raising concerns about the jackpot for the June 8 drawing. Lottery officials said the firing was unrelated to the memo, but Deviney said last week that he believed that the events were related.

"I felt like someone was going to suffer," he said, "and it turned out to be me."

Lottery spokeswoman Kristina Tirloni said she could not discuss the reason Pitcock left.

"There has been a resignation, but we don't discuss personnel matters," Tirloni said.

The Lottery Commission's agenda for Monday's meeting allows the three-member panel to meet in private "to deliberate the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal of the executive director."

It also permits the panel to consider whether to reassign Deputy Director Gary Grief and several other top Lottery Commission officials. The panel may also deliberate on hiring an acting executive director for the lottery.

If the commissioners plan to act on any of their deliberations, they must do so in public under the state's open meetings laws.

Greer, a former district clerk in Bexar County, was appointed to head the revenue-generating Lottery Commission in February 2003. During his first year on the job, Texas joined the multistate Mega Millions game, which often produces jackpots in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The entry into Mega Millions cut sharply into the ticket sales for Lotto, which had been the Texas lottery's signature game since it was introduced in 1992. The sluggish sales affected the Lotto jackpots, which open at $4 million and climb each time no one picks all the numbers necessary to win.

Under Lottery Commission rules, the advertised Lotto jackpot is guaranteed only during the first four drawings after a winner. After that, the advertised jackpot is an estimate, and the winner is paid a percentage of the ticket sales.

Greer signed off on the recommendation to advertise the June 8 jackpot at $8 million but neglected to pay attention to the notations that ticket sales would not support that amount. He and other lottery officials later acknowledged exaggerating jackpots at least three other times, but it had never come to light because no one had won them.

At a June 24 commission meeting, Clowe and Commissioners James Cox and Rolando Olivera chastised Greer for being lax in his duties, saying that misrepresenting jackpots breaks faith with players.

And during a hearing before the House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures, Clowe told lawmakers that Greer had been deceptive. Greer, who accepted responsibility for the exaggerations and vowed to be more diligent in his oversight, said later that he feared that he had lost the confidence of the commissioners.

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