A judge said a Tennessee Lottery investigation of workplace harassment violated due process and questioned whether it justified forcing a high-ranking lottery official out of his job.
The comments Wednesday by Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy in an open records case provide the most details so far on the dismissal of Steve Adams from his job as the lottery's chief administrative officer after a harassment investigation.
Adams has denied he harassed anyone, and lottery executives have said little and fought in court to not release more details. The lottery, which has been sued by online newspaper NashvillePost.com to release investigative files in the case, has claimed attorney-client privilege.
McCoy said she had reviewed the file given to her by lottery officials in a blue folder marked "attorney client privilege" and thought that NashvillePost.com was entitled to look at it but that she would give Adams the chance to see it first, according to a transcript of Wednesday's hearing.
"I don't find that whatever was instituted as an investigation in any way purports to comply with the duty of fairness and due process that anyone who was supposed to be charged with discrimination and harassment in our society, those are very serious allegations, was afforded to Mr. Adams," McCoy said.
McCoy gave the lottery 10 days to redact names from the file and turn it over to Adams, who then has 10 days to review it and determine if he wants to turn it over to the news media. If Adams doesn't release the file himself, the case goes back to McCoy for a ruling on whether the documents are subject to the open records law.
The judge said in issuing her order that the lottery records indicate complaints from January 2004, September and October but that Adams wasn't questioned about them until Dec. 29.
"It has really offended the court that these complaints do not appear to articulate when the complaint was received, what action was taken at the time it was received and what notice was given to Mr. Adams at the time the complaint was received," McCoy said.
According to the transcript, the incidents occurred at "collegiality or parties" and "none of them happened in the everyday workplace 8 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.)"
McCoy said she had trouble discerning the nature of the complaint from the lottery file and that information from one interview "almost disqualifies it from being a complaint."
Lottery spokeswoman Kym Gerlock declined Wednesday to comment about the judge's ruling.
"The court's transcript reflects what my concerns have been from the very beginning, that is, I don't believe my termination was justified," Adams said Wednesday.
McCoy also ordered the release of a letter to Adams from lottery lawyer Wanda Young Wilson that provides a few more details about the allegations.
"We can't operate in an environment where our employees or vendors are afraid of retaliation stemming from unwanted sexual advances," the letter said.
Contrary to what McCoy said was in the lottery file, Wilson wrote that Adams had been warned about the complaint.
Adams told The Associated Press he's not sure yet if he will turn over the file to reporters but was encouraged by the judge's decision.
"I don't know what's in it (investigative file)," Adams said. "I'm waiting to see."
Adams, 54, has worked in state government since 1973 and elected state treasurer in 1987. He left that position in 2003 to work for the lottery.
A review of Adams' lottery personnel file last week revealed he received high marks on his job performance and a merit-based raise.