Jul 12, 2019, 7:50 am
More 'dirty laundry' revealed by botched raffle draw investigation
Connecticut Lottery Corp. Vice President Chelsea Turner testified Tuesday that around 2014, she and then-lottery CEO Anne Noble had such suspicions about Frank Farricker, then chairman of the lottery's governing board, that she contacted an agent she knew in the FBI — which then had Noble record Farricker secretly in at least one meeting.
The small recording device was concealed inside an eyeglass case, Turner testified under oath at a state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities hearing.
The heretofore-undisclosed FBI inquiry apparently never came up with anything worth pursuing criminally and apparently was dropped years ago, Turner said. Farricker said Tuesday night he'd never heard from the FBI and was "flabbergasted" at Turner's comments Tuesday suggesting there was reason for suspicion.
Now that the years-old episode has come to light, it's unclear what significance it will have in the CHRO's ultimate decision on ex-lottery security chief Alfred DuPuis' "whistleblower complaint" that he was the victim of retaliation by superiors in 2018.
But one thing it does prove is that just about every scrap of dirty laundry is destined to be hung out before the turmoil of recent years inside the big money-making agency is finally put to rest, if ever.
Turner popped out with word of the FBI's dip into the lottery's affairs when she was being questioned by DuPuis' attorney, Eric Brown. He was asking her about her past working relationship with Farricker, an active Greenwich Democrat who was Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's appointee to head the lottery board. Farricker had just finished with a couple of hours' sworn testimony, in support of DuPuis' claims that she had tried to get Farricker to fire him for reasons including her belief (and Noble's, allegedly) that DuPuis was not a team player. Turner denied ever making such a request or having a problem working with DuPuis.
But Turner said she "never trusted Frank Farricker" and said she suspected him of unethical personal dealings based on actions she'd observed. Turner, who was in a lower-ranking job at the time but still a top subordinate to Noble, said both she and Noble were "uncomfortable with Mr. Farricker. There's a lot of reasons to be uncomfortable with Mr. Farricker. He operated by his own rules."
Brown asked her whether she'd reported this to the Office of State Ethics, she said no, but she'd talked to lottery board members about it. Then Brown followed up with: "Apart from the reports that... you made to the board of directors, did you make reports about Frank Farricker's s alleged nefarious actions to any other entity, person or body?"
"The FBI," she said.
Turner said she went to college with an FBI agent who works in Connecticut, and inquired with her friend as to whom they could talk to at the FBI. The friend put Noble and Turner in touch with another agent, she said, and both met with that agent. Turner said she believed she only met with the agent once, but "Ms. Noble with the FBI a couple of times. They were interested enough where they had multiple meetings... They want as far as to wiretap her [although] I don't know if 'wiretap' is the right word."
It turned out to be the wrong word, as she further explained. "They used a recorder and they put it in a case like this," she said, holding up her own soft eyeglass pouch. She added that Noble used the recorder "at a meeting" with Farricker "where they had conversations."
Noble's attorney, Ray Hassett, confirmed Tuesday night that "Ms. Noble was asked to wear a wire by the FBI. She did so willingly in connection with matters that were unrelated to her own acts or omissions and over which she shared serious concerns." Noble's actions "reflected her consistent desire and pursuit to ensure the integrity of the lottery and state government," he said. "At no time was she the subject of any wrongdoing."
Brown asked Turner at the hearing how many times Noble recorded Farricker, and Turner said she didn't know if it was more than once. She also didn't know if Farricker was the only lottery official whose words were recorded.
"You never told anybody either in the General Assembly, the governor's office or the Connecticut Lottery [Corp.] that... Ms. Noble was recording surreptitiously conversations she was having with Frank Farricker?" Brown said. He asked if she had ever told DuPuis, the lottery's director of security, who was responsible for ensuring "the integrity of Connecticut's lottery games."
She said no, because "the concerns were more ethical concerns.... They weren't concerns with [the] gaming system, necessarily. They were about business activities... I went to someone that was familiar to me."
She gave a few examples. About five years ago, Turner said that even though her job was to in effect lobby for the lottery agency with the General Assembly, Farricker had told her as chairman of the lottery board to stop talking to lawmakers on the Keno issue, which she did even though she thought it was odd and felt wrong. She said she'd heard Farricker, who owns a real estate company, had been lobbying for funds for a Norwalk nonprofit theater redevelopment project he was involved in, adding that she also questioned a Farricker agreement for a promotional contract with Mohegan Sun that wasn't worth what the lottery was paying.
DuPuis's claim of retaliation stems from the lottery's internal investigation of a million-dollar blunder in the New Year's Super Draw on Jan. 1, 2018. Turner, as acting lottery CEO at that time, placed DuPuis on paid administrative leave in mid-February of that year from his $139,000-a-year job, saying that the lottery's internal probe found he had acted "with gross neglect... of his duties" as the boss of lottery employees who made a major mistake in selecting the winning numbers. The snafu resulted in a do-over drawing and a $1 million loss to the state.
Dupuis never returned from that leave to face possible disciplinary action that awaited him, but instead he took family leave and medical leave, and finally retired late in 2018. The current, ongoing CHRO hearings stem from a complaint he filed more than a year ago, seeking compensation. He claims that the attempt to discipline him over the mishandled drawing was, in reality, part of a pattern of retaliation against him for his role four years ago in exposing retailer fraud in the now-infamous 5 Card Cash game. That fraud resulted in 5 Card Cash's shutdown and, eventually, 15 arrests.
The 5 Card Cash scandal led to pressure for Noble to depart as president/CEO of the lottery in September 2016, when she entered a controversial and lucrative separation agreement that gave her an extra few months on the payroll in a consulting role and qualified her for state retirement benefits.
After Noble quit, Farricker filled in as interim CEO until May 2017, when he resigned after first attempting to become permanent CEO. Later in 2017, Farricker also paid a $5,000 fine to the state's ethics agency for billing the lottery for expenses, including his home cable TV, personal cellphone and internet service, which he was ordered to reimburse.
Farricker had already left Tuesday's hearing when the disclosures about the FBI inquiry came up. Reached by phone Tuesday night, he said, "The idea of the whole thing... I'm flabbergasted. I just don't understand why this person" — Turner — "continues to regularly draw the lottery into one embarrassment after another." He also said of Noble: "Do you think that if the board of directors knew that she had surreptitiously recorded me in an eyeglass holder, they would have given her the generous settlement that they did? I've got to ask, when does this nonstop embarrassment end?"
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