In a gesture of openness, Texas Lottery commissioners announced Monday that, for the first time, a committee of state officials and private citizens outside the lottery will help find the agency's next leader.
The commission accepted the resignation of former executive director Reagan Greer, who announced his departure Friday, two weeks after he admitted approving several inflated Lotto Texas jackpot estimates recommended by his staff.
Commissioners named Greer's former deputy and longtime lottery employee Gary Grief as acting executive director while they advertise the position to lead the $3.5 billion state agency.
Commission Chairman Tom Clowe, mindful of criticisms that the lottery's culture is closed, stressed that the search will involve outsiders whose sole mission will be finding the most qualified applicants for the three-member lottery commission to consider. But the commission will make the final decision on a new executive director.
"What we want is a broad involvement of people who are interested in the lottery to participate, and that's a first," Clowe said. "To me, that represents a change in the culture and an outreach to people who want to be involved and say they'd like to make it a better operation."
Clowe said the search for the new executive director will "cast a wide net" and that its goal will be to "reach for excellence and find someone who is qualified, experienced and will do an outstanding job."
Grief is only allowed to serve as acting director for six months, Clowe said, and a decision should be made on Greer's replacement before then.
Clowe said he supported Grief for acting director because he believed him to be the most qualified. But lottery watchdogs, including a lawmaker, and several former employees, disagreed with the decision.
Some say Grief should have lost his job as well because a staffer notified him last month that Lotto sales would fall short of the June 8 estimated jackpot, but Grief failed to act.
Greer said he signed off on a form recommending an $8 million jackpot because he trusted his staff to recommend the right amount and didn't notice another spot on the form that estimated Lotto sales at only $6.5 million.
Clowe noted Monday that it wasn't Grief's responsibility to oversee the estimate. But critics say he could have done something to prevent an overstated jackpot to be advertised.
Ned Anderson, a former lottery investigator who lost his job in a November reorganization, said Grief is part of the institutional problems at the agency and is the wrong choice to lead it during a crisis.
"It's a bad thing," Anderson said. "I think that what they've done is they haven't really improved the problem at all."
And Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, who chairs the House committee that oversees the lottery, said the commission should take a closer look at support staffers who have been a "common denominator" in the troubled agency, including Grief. "They should be held responsible as well," Flores, D-Palmville, said.
Dawn Nettles, a lottery watchdog who helped expose the inflated jackpots, agreed.
"My hope is they figure they're going to hire somebody who's going to come in and fire everybody else," she said.
Clowe said commissioners only have the authority to hire and fire the executive director and can't "reach into the organization" and discipline others.
Besides, he said, the work culture in most cases is established by the agency's leader.
Still, Clowe commended the former executive director for requesting an outside audit of the lottery's November reorganization, which involved gutting its security division and firing some well-regarded employees.
Meanwhile, the commission put off voting on proposed rule changes involving Lotto Texas jackpot estimates. The proposals are intended to be short-term fixes to deal with the slumping sales of the Texas Lottery's flagship game.