Two middle-level Connecticut Lottery Corp. employees have been suspended without pay in the continuing fallout from a million-dollar mistake in the Jan. 1 drawing that selected winners in the New Year's Super Draw game.
Disciplined for "neglect of duty" were drawing supervisor Valerie Guglielmo and investigator Robert Balicki. Both served on a five-member drawing team that mistakenly excluded 100,000 of 214,601 eligible tickets that had been sold to players. The error resulted in a do-over draw on Jan. 16 and a loss of about $1 million.
The two employees were placed on paid leaves Jan. 2, and now each has signed a disciplinary agreement negotiated by the lottery corporation and the Administrative and Residual Employees Union (A&R), with the following consequences:
- Gugliemo, paid $89,269 a year, is serving a suspension of 20 unpaid working days from March 2 to 29, for failing to enter and verify the correct digits in a random number generating computer that picked winners at the drawing in Rocky Hill. She entered 214601 as the highest-numbered ticket — instead of the correct number, 314601 — forgetting that the lowest ticket number was 100001 instead of 000001, which meant 100,000 had to be added to the number of tickets sold. She's expected return to work on April 2.
- Balicki, who is paid $77,704 a year, was suspended without pay for eight working days from Feb. 26 to March 7 and has returned to work. He was one of the team members who were supposed to observe and verify that the right numbers went into the random number generator, and he "failed to recognize that the incorrect [top] number had been entered...and therefore failed to halt the drawing until the correction was made, as required. Given the fact that Mr. Balicki noticed and corrected a similar error in a practice drawing, five days prior, he should have noticed the error and corrected it on 01/01/2018," his disciplinary document said.
The other members of the Jan. 1 drawing team were: two employees of the state Department of Consumer Protection (DCP), Christine Komorowski and Atanu Ahmed; and Keith Lewis, a representative from the lottery corporation's outside accounting firm, Marcum LLP. Lewis was there as an observer to ensure that official drawing procedures were followed, and they weren't.
DCP has referred possible disciplinary action for its two team members to the State Department of Administrative Services (DAS), which has yet to reach a decision. (Unlike the quasi-public lottery Corporation, DCP does not have its own human resources department, so it referred the matter of discipline to DAS.) In the meantime, the two DCP employees are "not participating in drawing activity," said Consumer Protection spokeswoman Lora Rae Anderson.
Accounting Firm Fired
The lottery corporation's Board of Directors last month voted to fire Marcum, a national accounting firm that has offices in Connecticut, with about 12 months left on its three-year contract. Lottery officials are considering legal action against Marcum, which denies it is responsible for the costly error.
Board of Directors Chairman Donald DeFronzo said he thinks that the suspensions of Guglielmo and Balicki are fair. The employees needed to be held accountable for the mistake even though it was unintentional, he said, but the discipline was "mitigated by their years of service and good things they've done for the agency."
A&R Union President John DiSette said last month that the drawing's "adverse outcome was the result of systemic deficiencies, not misconduct or negligence. The employees involved are all highly respected, experienced, and dedicated employees who performed within the guidelines approved for them." He said that investigative reports by the lottery corporation and the DCP on the drawing snafu show that there are "some simple steps that could be taken to resolve the systemic problems."
Lottery officials are recommending in the aftermath of the Jan. 1 snafu that future Super Draw games use tickets beginning with the number 000001, instead of 100001, which has been used in previous editions of the special game that has been offered one or two times a year since 2010, with tickets sold at $10 apiece.
Lottery officials say they have no certain explanation for the artificial inflation of the Super Draw ticket numbers over the years. However, one possibility they've offered is that previous officials believed that higher ticket numbers might increase ticket sales by indicating to players that there was a high level of enthusiasm for the game.
It probably will be months before the fallout from the Jan. 1 drawing snafu dissipates.
For one thing, interim lottery CEO Chelsea Turner last month placed the agency's $139,000-a-year security director, Alfred DuPuis, on a paid leave pending possible disciplinary action after an internal investigation concluded that he "acted with gross neglect ... of his duties" leading up to the flawed Jan. 1 drawing. And now, while the question of discipline hangs over him, DuPuis is out on a Family and Medical Leave Act leave.
So are the lottery agency's Human Resources director, Jane Rooney, and her assistant director, Jennifer Hunter. They began their FMLA leaves in the past two weeks and are due to return in mid-April. Their leaves are not disciplinary, DeFronzo said. Without going into detail, he said he believes "they are related very much to unsubstantiated and personal attacks in some of the communications that we have seen from state legislators."
State lawmakers including Rep. Joe Verrengia, the Democratic co-chairman of the General Assembly's public safety committee, and Senate Republican leader Len Fasano, have said the lottery agency has failed to provide sufficient explanations of, or solutions for, its problems dating back to a fraud scandal involving lottery retailers that forced the shutdown of the 5 Card Cash Game in 2015.
They have asked DCP, as the state's official regulator of the lottery, to conduct a "top to bottom" investigation of overall operations at the revenue-raising agency. The DCP says it will investigate, and is preparing to get underway. The lawmakers want outside agencies, such as the Auditors of Public Accounts, to be enlisted to help in that inquiry.
Verrengia also said that with key lottery managers such as Rooney and DuPuis not at work — and with the lottery board still having failed to appoint a permanent chief executive officer 18 months after former CEO Anne Noble left amid controversy — he is considering introducing legislation that would put a temporary management committee in charge of day-to-day operations until the lottery can pull itself out of continual turmoil.
DeFronzo said the lottery agency is continuing to address its problems, and is arranging to hire an outside consultant to study the $1.2 billion a year sales operation and recommend improvements. The lottery generates $330 million a year in revenue for the state.
How It Happened
The DCP's Anderson has said the Jan. 1 drawing blunder happened this way:
- The five members of the drawing team had the benefit of illustrated instructions — in the form of printed "Official Drawing Procedures" — for how to enter the correct high and low ticket numbers into the electronic number-generating machine that randomly selects the winners.
- Those printed procedures emphasized that ticket numbers went upward from a low of 100001 — so the second ticket would be 100002, the third 100003, and so on. With, 214,601 tickets sold, the range of eligible tickets should have been 100001 at the low end, and 314601 at the top.
- But Guglielmo instead entered 214601 as the top number, omitting the 100,000 tickets numbered from 214602 through 314601. And that error wasn't caught by Balicki or the representatives from DCP and Marcum.
Guglielmo had created an unofficial "checklist," which, although intended to avoid mistakes, contributed to the error, an internal investigation by the lottery agency concluded last month.
The investigative report said that Guglielmo, who was formally designated as "primary drawing performer," asked and received DuPuis' permission to create the concise, two-page checklist derived from the lengthy "Official Drawing Procedures." DCP officials were even consulted about what should be on the checklist.
But the checklist, which she used at the drawing, didn't include the same kind of explicit, illustrated emphasis on a key step in the procedure in which the total of tickets sold should be adjusted upward by 100,000.