The chief of the Springfield office of the state Lottery has been terminated from his $71,000-a-year job, highlighting the Lottery's lagging record on minority hiring.
Luis Garcia, 48, of Springfield said he was called into the Lottery's Braintree headquarters on Oct. 20 and told by former state Rep. Joseph C. Sullivan, the lottery's executive director, that he was being terminated as of Nov. 5 as assistant director and regional manager in Springfield. Garcia, a Puerto Rican, said he was the only minority in the office of about 25 employees and the only person who spoke Spanish.
"They told me I served at the will of the treasurer," said Garcia, who experienced a past problem on the job. "They said it was not disciplinary. They just wanted to make a change."
Garcia said he was treated differently because unlike six other former employees of the state Treasurer's office, he didn't sign a confidentiality agreement and he received no severance.
Beth A. Bresnahan, spokeswoman for the Lottery, declined comment on Garcia's dismissal.
"Luis's termination was a personnel decision and we wish him well," Bresnahan said.
Garcia ran into trouble in 2002 when he said he was suspended for 30 days from his Lottery job under a former administration. The suspension came after Garcia, who was then chairman of Springfield's liquor license commission, threatened to revoke a city bar's liquor and Keno license during an argument with a bartender who didn't stock his preferred brand of whiskey.
Garcia, who resigned from the license commission after that incident, attributed his difficulties to his past use of alcohol. Garcia said he was arrested for operating under the influence in April 2004. Garcia said he was convicted of the charge and his license was suspended. Garcia said he has joined Alcoholics Anonymous and hasn't had any alcohol since that arrest.
Garcia was replaced by Daniel J. Thibeault, a former sales representative for the lottery in Woburn and former public school teacher in Weymouth on the South Shore, a political power base for the lottery executive director and the state treasurer.
Bresnahan said the Lottery needs to improve on hiring minorities.
Of the 414 Lottery employees, 19 (4.5 percent) are black, seven (1.6 percent) Asian and three (less than 1 percent) Hispanic, Bresnahan said. Springfield's population is 30 percent Hispanic, 22 percent black and 3 percent Asian, according to 2004 census figures. The state's population is 7.7 percent Hispanic, 6 percent black and 4.6 percent Asian.
Bresnahan confirmed Garcia's statement that only three Hispanics work statewide for the Lottery, but she declined to provide statistics on the number of minorities who work in Springfield.
State Rep. Cheryl A. Rivera, D-Springfield, co-chairwoman of the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, said the Lottery apparently is lagging in hiring minorities. Rivera said she is concerned the Springfield office may have no minorities and no one able to speak Spanish, especially when many Hispanics and other minorities play Lottery games.
The Lottery has hired 75 people statewide since February 2003, seven of them minorities.
Rivera said she questioned if Garcia's termination was related to his race. "It really doesn't seem right," Rivera said. Garcia had received no written warnings in the three years since his month-long suspension.
Rivera said Garcia, who is a Republican, could have been moved to another lottery job. "Why would you fire somebody? If it's not job performance, I'm a little confused as to why you would do that."
Married with three children between 7 and 11 years old, Garcia said he never received an explanation about why he was terminated from the Lottery, which is overseen by Democratic state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill. Garcia said it's unfair he didn't receive any severance considering about six other Treasury employees have departed after signing confidentiality and severance agreements.
Garcia used to be a member of a state employee union, but he and other lottery regional managers were removed from the union in 2000.
At the Springfield office, people can claim certain prizes. The office also has sales, repair and administrative staff.
As evidence that he experienced no discipline problems, Garcia said, he was given two more weeks on the job in Springfield after he was handed his termination letter.
"I'm still in shock," Garcia said. "I was very disappointed, especially when you lose your job right near the holidays."