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Texas lawmakers hear allegations about lottery disaster site

Nov 15, 2005, 5:00 pm

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Texas Lottery

The Texas Lottery Commission would not be able to resume critical functions in a timely manner if its headquarters were destroyed because its disaster recovery site lacks important equipment, a former lottery employee told lawmakers Monday.

Shelton Charles, a senior lottery systems analyst who was fired Nov. 4, told the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee that he warned his bosses that backing up data was useless if the agency didn't have the equipment to access it. He said his managers told him they didn't have enough money to buy the hardware.

Charles' testimony came during a nearly four-hour committee hearing on management practices at the $3.5 billion a year agency, the second such hearing in five months. The committee oversees operations at the nation's third-largest lottery.

Top lottery officials disputed the claims, saying the site has been fully operational since late 1998 or early 1999.

The hearing was prompted by a scathing e-mail Charles sent to state Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, the committee's chairman, saying agency officials misled the Legislature about the disaster recovery site, tried to block public information requests that might have revealed wrongdoing and bullied employees into silence.

Most state agencies back up their critical data at a central disaster recovery site, but the lottery has spent about $1.3 million creating and maintaining its own site in an Austin warehouse.

Lottery Commission Chairman C. Thomas Clowe and Gary Grief, the agency's acting executive director, told the committee the site has been fully functional for years. But none of the half dozen lottery employees who testified knew the exact date it became operational.

Grief said creating the disaster recovery site was a massive undertaking done over a span of many months with different systems being brought online at different times.

"I think it would be disingenuous of me to try to tell you that on X date everything was done," he said. "I don't think I could do that and feel good about it."

He insisted, however, that lottery employees could quickly resume their duties at the disaster recovery site if necessary, and he invited the committee members to tour the facility.

Lawmakers plan to tour the facility after Thanksgiving.

Grief also pointed out that GTECH Corp., the contractor that runs the lottery's gaming operation, backs up its information in four places. He said that means a problem at lottery headquarters wouldn't affect wagering and prize claiming.

But Charles said there isn't enough bandwidth at the emergency facility for lottery employees to electronically communicate with either GTECH or retailers.

"If you get an analyst, a third party to review that, you're going to find out that I'm right on the money - no ifs, no ands, no buts," Charles said.

Charles was fired two days after he sent the e-mail to Flores and hours after the e-mail became public.

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