Wednesday, June 21, 2006

TDW Takes Aim At Daniels' Hoosier Lottery Director

Taking Down Words played an instrumental role in uncovering corruption at the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute which resulted in the ouster of the agency's two top officials, now the Democratic blog is taking aim at the Hoosier Lottery and its Director Esther Schneider. TDW, after alluding to problems brewing at the agency awhile back, has now obtained a copy of a complaint it reports was filed with the Inspector General against Schneider which contains explosive allegations. The original complaint was filed on June 12, and the updated complaint made available at TDW dated June 14 alleges that Schneider and another staff member "spent the day moving, altering, and possibly removing documentation alluded to in the [June 12 complaint]." The complaint speculates that Schneider was responding to a "heads-up from the OIG or the Governor's office." The Complaint appeals to the Inspector General to conduct "an immediate and thorough investigation of the actions" of Schneider.

The unsigned complaint charges that Schneider has violated "state ethics rules, state statutes, and abused her discretionary authority including but not limited to slander, ongoing public humiliation of staff, derogatory comments, intimidation, coersion, and awarding of contracts." Advance Indiana emphasizes that at this point these are simply allegations. Neither the IG's office nor any other investigative agency to our knowledge has conducted and concluded an investigation to determine whether there is any merit to the complaint. No conclusions should be drawn about anyone's guilt or innocence in this matter. AI would point out, as alluded in the complaint, that the agency is facing legal action by several ex-employees of the agency, alleging wrongful termination. Because these matters do involve a public agency, the public has a right to know what current and former employees of the agency have to say about the current management of the agency.

Among the specific charges laid out in the complaint are the following:

  • Paying out prize monies from the now-defunct Hoosier Millionaire Show after the grace period.
  • Accepting entertainment from vendors and former business associates.
  • Entertaining vendors, clients and other individuals, and submitting improperly prepared expense reports for personal reimbursement.
  • Performing political activities using her office and title.
  • Awarding contracts to former business partners and political associates.
  • Based hiring/firing decisions on a person's political affiliation.
  • "Routinely derided" the agency's former general counsel, a quadriplegic.
  • "Frequently derisively" refers to the Lottery's players and Indiana residents as "rubes", "hayseeds" and "anti-Semitic" in meetings with staff and vendors.
  • Instituting a cash bonus system which rewards employees, including herself, which purportedly insures she will receive a bonus equal to 1/3 of her annual salary.
  • Brings her dog to work and makes staff care for it, including taking it for walks and "cleaning up after it on the street."

The report also suggests that Schneider has made many short-sighted decisions to save money, which at first appear to result in greater lottery revenues, such as cutting staff and cancelling the Hoosier Millionaire Show. But the complaint argues that these one-time savings may negatively impact long-term revenues. The report zings Schneider with her own words. It quotes her as saying, "[T]here was zero accountability for bad behavior" in the previous Lottery administration.

UPDATE: The Indiana Daily Insight is reporting tonight the following: "Expect the news to break today (Thursday) about some issues in a quasi-state agency that may involve an Inspector General investigation." AI has also learned that the complaint posted at TDW was mailed to all 150 of Indiana's state legislators, in addition to being widely distributed among members of the State House media.

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