Friday, June 23, 2006

Star Punts Schneider Story; Instead Gives Top Billing To 9-Year Old Suit

If one would have expected a front-page story from the Star today on Lottery Director's Esther Schneider's admissions of wrongdoing in her management of the agency, you would be wrong. You'll have to look for a tiny story buried somewhere in the Metro & State section for that story. Instead, the Star gave front-page billing to news that the agency is settling a nearly decade-old suit by the winner of a $5 scratch-off ticket who failed to claim his prize within 90 days.

WTHR-TV, however, gave top billing in its Thursday night newscast with an interview with Schneider by Kevin Rader concerning the allegations contained in an anonymous complaint filed with the Inspector General. His report included an interview with Jennifer Wagner, communications director for the Indiana Democratic Party and the editor of Taking Down Words, which first posted the complaint on its blog site Wednesday night. It appears that TDW was the first media source to obtain the complaint. TDW wrote upon its release, "Lo and behold, a copy of the anonymous IG complaint arrived on TDW's desk last week." Other news media sources say they received their copy on Wednesday, at the same time copies were being distributed to all 150 state lawmakers.

Mary Diana Penner writes in today's Star about the 9-year old lawsuit being settled:

A dispute over a winning scratch-off ticket that would have cost the Hoosier Lottery $5 to resolve in 1997 instead will cost the agency more than $1 million.

The lottery has agreed to a proposed settlement to end the nearly decade-long fight, which evolved into a class-action lawsuit.

Here's what happened:

Tom H. Smith, Indianapolis, bought a $2 "instant win" ticket in 1996, which yielded a $5 prize. He didn't instantly redeem it, though. And when he tried to collect months later, he was told he was too late.

Smith appealed to lottery headquarters, saying he had no way of knowing the game had ended. That didn't work, so he sued.

The lottery already has ponied up more than $450,000 to pay lawyers to fight the suit and now is agreeing to set up a $600,000 pot to resolve the entire matter, once and for all.

Esther Schneider, executive director of the Hoosier Lottery since January 2005, when Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed his own team, said she looked at the lawsuit she inherited and decided enough was enough.

"I thought, 'OK, how do we make this thing go away?' " she said. Under the terms of the proposed settlement, which still must be formally approved by a judge, Smith will get $15,000 from the $600,000 fund.

It really is a serious case of mismangement on the part of the agency, although the blame here largely must be placed on her predecessors. The only real winner is the law firm of Baker & Daniels, which the state paid more than $450,000 in legal fees to handle a $5 scratch-off ticket claim. The disputing winner will receive $15,000 for the $5 prize the Lottery refused to pay him, although I suspect his attorney, Rich Waples, will get at least 40% of that amount.


Anonymous said...

Why isn't the media asking questions about TDW? Everyone knows TDW wrote the complaint and sent it to the legislators and reporters.

Advance Indiana said...

Anonymous 5:58--do you have evidence any evidence TDW wrote and distributed the report?

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Wagner engineered this entire episode just like she did with Heather Bolejack. You should be ashamed for allowing her to use you in her effort to destroy good people just for the sport of it.

Advance Indiana said...

Nobody's using me for anything.

Dee said...

I haven't bought scratch tickets for a few years but considering when the lawsuit first started.Last I knew stores don't post ending dates for any scratch tickets.So how is one to know when the 60 or 90 days are up.
Perhaps in the future lottery officals should post a date on the back of the ticket showing when the game ends so they can avoid another incident like that.

Advance Indiana said...

It's my understanding they do that now Dee.

paula said...

I don't get it. I read thru the entire thread (over 50 posts) on TDW. There are maybe 2 half-hearted attempts at defending Schneider. Yet I find you here accusing one of the TDW's. Why not on TDW?

What I tire of is the mentality on both sides that if it is my person, it's ok, but if the other side does the same thing (or in some recent cases, not even as bad!), look out.

Instead, I'd like to see everyone take the attitude of "if this were my person, what would I want the other side to be saying in this circumstance". Sure, it would still be partisan, but at least it might be a bit more civil.

Advance Indiana said...

Paula--I suspect the anonymous poster may have been afraid TDW would have been able to figure out his/her identity. I'm still getting anonymous posts from someone defending Bolejack long after those posts have fallen into the deep recesses of this blog's archives.