The Connecticut Lottery Corp. opened 2018 with a million dollar blunder at a Jan. 1 drawing, and months of controversy followed. But that seemed to die down as the agency recently reported a record $345 million in revenue on $1.2 billion in annual ticket sales, and took a step toward normality last month by hiring Gregory Smith, the acting Illinois lottery chief, to fill its long-vacant CEO position.
However, the surface calm is deceiving. There's still big trouble.
It comes in the form of a "whistleblower complaint" from the lottery's longtime security director, Alfred DuPuis — who claims that an attempt to discipline him over the Jan. 1 drawing snafu is, in reality, part of a pattern of retaliation against him for his role three years ago in exposing retailer fraud in the now-infamous 5 Card Cash game. That fraud resulted in 5 Card Cash's shutdown and, eventually, 15 arrests.
Lottery officials denied the retaliation allegations contained in DuPuis' complaint, which paints a poisonous picture of complicated conflict going back years inside the agency.
The complaint was filed May 12 with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, and was obtained Friday by Government Watch from the lottery agency via a Freedom of Information Act request. The CHRO has scheduled an "initial conference" on his complaint on Aug. 28.
DuPuis was placed on paid administrative leave Feb. 15 from his $139,000-a-year job after an internal lottery investigation resulted in an allegation that he acted "with gross neglect ... of his duties" as the boss of lottery employees who made a major mistake Jan. 1 in selecting the winning numbers in the New Year's Super Draw. The snafu resulted in a do-over drawing Jan. 16 and a $1 million loss to the state.
Dupuis was scheduled to return from that leave on Feb. 23 to face possible disciplinary action, but instead he took family leave and, later, medical leave, according to lottery officials — and he still has not returned to work six months later. Meanwhile, the disciplinary process against DuPuis has stalled until whenever he might return to work.
In his complaint to the CHRO, DuPuis listed damages that could be due him — including "attorney fees and...release from administrative leave and compensation for the emotional distress that I have suffered."
Concerning the flawed Jan. 1 drawing, he said that "due to the failure of two of my direct [subordinates] to follow the approved official drawing procedures, they were both placed on administrative leave on Jan. 2... [and] I worked to correct the problem by coordinating and completing a new drawing on Jan. 16... and dealing with the public fallout."
But then came the mid-February order that he go on leave and then come back to argue his case as to why the lottery "should not take any action against me [for] 'gross neglect' of my duties as to the cause of my employees' failure to conduct the... drawing in accordance with the approved... procedures." That question of possible discipline, again, is on hold.
Throughout his complaint, DuPuis recounted what he has told a state auditor, Tim LePore — who was assigned to investigate what two state legislators in March characterized as "the appearance of selective investigation and retaliation" against DuPuis.
Those legislators — Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano and Rep. Joe Verrengia, co-chairman of the legislative public safety committee — suggested that the lottery's disciplinary proceeding might be payback for DuPuis' "forthright testimony" during investigative hearings last year into the 5 Card Cash scandal.
They asked the state Department of Consumer Protection, which oversees the conduct of lottery games, to investigate — and that department referred their request to the Auditors of Public Accounts, who by April assigned LePore to the inquiry that's still ongoing.
DuPuis said in his complaint that "to provide a historical background as to my belief of retaliation, I told Mr. LePore that in January 2016, I had advised the [lottery's] then President & CEO, Anne Noble, of my knowledge of the potential fraud" in the 5 Card Cash game. He said that he'd already advised Noble in April 2015 that the game "had a great potential for retailer fraud and suggested fraud mitigation actions to deter or prevent it" that Noble "declined to consider."
DuPuis said that the consumer protection department had later "conducted a full investigation and determined that fraud resulted in a $2 million loss to the state."
His complaint then fast-forwarded to this past Feb. 22, when DuPuis said the lottery's former board chairman/interim CEO, Frank Farricker, contacted him after reading news of the pending disciplinary action. DuPuis said that Farricker "felt compelled to tell me... [that] he was certain the 'gross neglect' charge against me was in retaliation for my uncovering the fraud scheme in the 5 Card Cash game" — as well as "the reporting of it to the Department of Consumer Protection... which resulted in the resignation of Anne Noble as the president & CEO."
Noble stepped down as CEO in September 2016, amid the consumer protection agency's investigation of 5 Card Cash, but didn't attribute her decision to the probe. She entered a lucrative separation agreement that kept her on lottery's payroll until 2017 and enabled her to qualify for state retirement benefits.
Farricker filled in as interim CEO until May 2017, when he resigned after first attempting to become permanent CEO. Later in 2017, Farricker also paid a fine to the state's ethics agency for billing the lottery for expenses including his home cable TV, personal cellphone and internet service.
Farricker was immediately succeeded as interim CEO by Chelsea Turner, who had been hired originally by Noble as the lottery's chief of strategy and government and operational affairs, after the two had both worked in the office of former Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
It was in that interim CEO's role that Turner placed DuPuis on the leave in February, after the internal investigation found the alleged "gross neglect."
DuPuis said in the complaint that both Noble and Turner, "who is Noble's longtime protege, personal friend and coworker [in Rell's office]", had talked against him, according to Farricker.
"Mr. Farricker told me that Anne Noble came to him and the Board of Directors during the 5 Card Cash fraud investigation, on at least three occasions, asking to terminate my employment... as the director of security, citing 'issues with Fred'.... In addition, Chelsea Turner... came to Mr. Farricker when he was the [acting CEO] after Anne Noble's departure, to ask him to consider terminating me for 'not being a team player' and for 'conspiring with the Department of Consumer Protection to get Anne Noble removed, amongst other things.'", DuPuis' complaint said.
'Disparage And Defame'
"In each instance, [neither] Mr. Farricker nor the Board of Directors ever moved toward my termination," DuPuis said. "However, I have every reason to believe that Chelsea Turner acted with willful and wanton action and disregard to publicly release an internal investigation [of the Jan. 1 drawing snafu], knowing that the facts were not accurate, to purposely disparage and defame my public reputation with the 'gross neglect' allegation so that she would have the ability to terminate me for such in retaliation for the demise of Anne Noble."
DuPuis also said that he told LePore, the auditor, that Turner "verbally attacked me" in a May 2017 senior staff meeting, "inferring that I was given confidential information" by state consumer protection officials in advance of a legislative hearing that month on the 5 Card Cash fraud, to enable him to "provide detailed testimony at the hearing."
"I took this allegation as an affront to my character and integrity and walked out of the meeting," DuPuis said. "This was evidence of Chelsea Turner's anger and bias against me," he said, adding that he never was given confidential information by consumer protection officials.
"Respondent denies that Chelsea Turner verbally attacked Complainant," an attorney for the lottery corporation said in a formal response filed with the CHRO July 16. There were similar denials, point by point, to DuPuis' various claims of being retaliated against.
The lottery's board of directors chairman, Donald DeFronzo, added to those denials on Friday. He said that from the time he arrived as the governor's appointee in summer 2017, "not one person," not Turner or anyone else, "uttered a critical word" about DuPuis' performance.
"I find it difficult to believe that if people harbored this retaliatory attitude" that "one of them wouldn't have mentioned it to me," DeFronzo said. He added that DuPuis is an "at-will" employee, and as such he could be gotten rid of without using the Jan. 1 snafu as an excuse. "If Chelsea wanted him fired, she had a perfect opportunity to come up to me... [and] she could easily have said, 'we're having problems with this guy'.... But she never did. She never approached me or anyone else," DeFronzo said.
"Why would we wait to exact retribution in the middle of the most highly publicized event of the year?" he said.
DeFronzo noted that DuPuis' subordinates were disciplined with suspensions, adding that someone in the consumer protection department was also disciplined in connection with the Jan. 1 drawing. DeFronzo said that if employees who were directly supervised by DuPuis were held accountable for their actions, then he should also face accountability as manager.
It's only reasonable that DuPuis, as the person in charge of those who erred, be subjected to the same sort of disciplinary process, in which he gets to defend himself, whatever the result, DeFronzo said.
Meanwhile, another high-ranking lottery official, human resources chief Jane Rooney, also has been out on family or medical leave for months, although she has not been targeted for possible discipline, DeFronzo said.
Noble, who's now living and working in New York State, was asked for her reaction to DuPuis' complaint. She responded in an email Friday that she stepped down as CEO two years ago and hasn't been a lottery employee for more than 18 months, "so what happened at the Lottery last New Year's has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Mr. DuPuis' duties and team at the lottery....
"This claim is a pathetic attempt at a defense to a credible concern that the public was not well served by the Lottery's security team or DCP [the Department of Consumer Protection] this past New Year's Day 2018," she said. "Drawing me into these 2018 events is nothing but another cog in a malicious and self serving smear campaign against me that inured to the benefit of" Farricker, DCP, security officials, and "system vendors, who program games."
She said that she'd asked repeatedly to testify in legislative public hearings on the lottery since 2017, but was denied. "Had I been permitted to testify,... the falsehoods and innuendo repeated in DuPuis' latest writings would already have been credibly debunked and this entire tiresome discourse long ago concluded in a manner that made sense to the public — because it would have been grounded in truth and in consistent facts and in a written record compiled under my watch that has never seen the light of day."