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Colorado appoints new lottery chief

Dec 23, 2003, 5:20 am

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Colorado Lottery

An official with the Colorado Department of Public Safety's criminal justice division has been tapped to lead the Colorado Lottery, an agency under investigation and, auditors say, fraught with mismanagement.

Margaret M. "Peggy' Gordon pledged Monday to "restore confidence in Colorado's lottery.'

Gordon, 54, is the victim compensation administrator with the state's Office for Victims Programs, where she has served since 1997. She will take over the lottery's top job Jan. 1.

She replaces Mark Zamarripa, who abruptly announced his resignation Nov. 12, hours before he was to meet with the state Cabinet member he reported to over questionable expenses he incurred on a trip to New Orleans.

In the view of Department of Revenue chief M. Michael Cooke, it was impossible to tell what the state was to pay Zamarripa for and what was provided by the national Lottery organization sponsoring his trip.

Gordon will take over an agency in the midst of many woes.

A Dec. 1 state audit unveiled a series of problems in the Lottery, ranging from abuse of company cellphones to questionable use of the Lottery's vehicle fleet to employee bonuses that one legislator described as a "gravy train.'

And last week, investigators from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation seized 23 computers in key offices of the Colorado Lottery as part of an investigation by the Arapahoe County district attorney to see if vendors improperly influenced Lottery management by wooing them with gifts.

Gordon said integrity will be the cornerstone of her administration.

"I think we owe it to the taxpayer, to our customers and to the organizations and agencies that receive lottery proceeds,' Gordon said. "We need to restore confidence in Colorado's Lottery.'

Gordon also said she would work to restore morale throughout the lottery organization.

Cooke chose Gordon out of five finalists, all from Colorado state government.

"Her background in the criminal justice arena will lend itself well to the tasks ahead,' Cooke said of Gordon in an e-mail to lottery employees.

Gordon's entire career has been in law enforcement.

She began in 1975 working with victim compensation issues with the 18th Judicial District, which comprises Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties.

She served there until taking the job with the state in 1997. She has extensive experience working with budgets and the state legislature, and in implementing changes driven by state audits.

She described herself as a quick study, and said she will quickly learn how the Lottery works.

One of her first tasks will be grappling with a new gift policy for Colorado Lottery employees. The Lottery Commission has been urged by Cooke to tighten ethics rules by banning Lottery employees from accepting any gifts from businesses that have or that are seeking lottery contracts.

Gordon said she was "in lockstep' with Cooke on the issue.

Lottery Commission chairman Stephen Hess, who said he will propose a gift-rule proposal next month similar to Cooke's, praised the hire.

"The new appointee's background in state government will give her a substantial start in taking over the lottery directorship,' he said.

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