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Report: Minnesota Lottery Director haunted by audit

Jan 30, 2004, 11:36 pm

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Minnesota LotteryMinnesota Lottery: Report: Minnesota Lottery Director haunted by audit

When Minnesota Lottery Director George Andersen went to work Monday to face a 10-hour meeting with legislative auditors, "he acted like he was going to his execution," his wife later told detectives.

Darlene Andersen also said that her husband feared that the couple would "lose everything" because of the audit.

The report about Andersen's death, which was released Friday, shows how greatly Andersen's job troubles were weighing on him before he took his life at his Washington County home.

Darlene Andersen found her husband with slashed wrists and a fillet knife nearby outside their Hugo home Tuesday morning.

The medical examiner ruled the death a suicide caused by hypothermia.

Andersen, 53, had been depressed and quiet over the weekend as the audit meeting that he dreaded approached, his wife and their son told county investigators.

He spent Monday evening talking to his wife about the meeting with auditors. When his son, Mark, 24, came home about 10 p.m. Andersen also talked to him about the audit, said the report, which was released by the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

Andersen told his wife that "he was sorry about the mess they were in, and he had no means to support the family when he loses his job, and that they will lose everything," the 10-page report said. He also told her he might face criminal charges.

But a source familiar with the upcoming Legislative Auditor's report rejected the notion that it alleged criminal wrongdoing. The auditors "didn't have anything that was criminal or of that nature," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Instead, the review "just raised a lot of questions" about Andersen's relationship with at least one lottery vendor.

However, the source said the report was critical of Andersen's operation of the lottery and might have jeopardized his job.

Andersen had recently expressed worry to friends and co-workers about the audit, which began last spring.

"I think it was upsetting to him that he was being so challenged," said Kate McCarthy, a former lottery spokeswoman and a friend of the Andersen family. "It was at a minimum very stressful."

Frank Ball, head of the gambling division of the state Department of Public Safety, recalled that Andersen said the audit wasn't going well and that he was "having a real go."

Findings of the state audit, which reviews lottery expenses and use of vendors, are expected to be released in February.

Meanwhile, the state Public Safety Department this week made inquiries to determine whether an investigation is needed into whether any laws were broken in the lottery's dealings with its vendors, officials said.

Andersen's family isn't ready to talk about the tragedy yet, said Michael Keyser, a close friend who answered the phone at Andersen's home on Friday. He said he worked with Andersen for 25 years at the lottery and at the Pennsylvania lottery before that. Andersen was counsel and then acting director for the Pennsylvania lottery before he was hired in 1989 to become the Minnesota lottery's first director. The lottery started in 1990.

Keyser, who managed on-line numbers games for the lottery, described Andersen as "the biggest-hearted person you would ever want to know."

Keyser told investigators that the state audit hadn't been going well and that that might have led Andersen to kill himself. He said Andersen and two other lottery workers met with four auditors for 10 hours on Monday.

Andersen told his wife Monday night that the audit was worse than he had thought, the sheriff's report said. The couple talked throughout the evening until she went to bed about 11 or 11:30 p.m. She said she later heard him go to the basement, where his office was.

Darlene Andersen woke up several times and noticed her husband wasn't in bed with her. Once she heard moaning outside the house but didn't check on it, the report said. She told police that Andersen had never attempted or talked about suicide before and that he was diabetic, with high blood pressure.

The report said that a three-page suicide note was found in Andersen's pocket at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where he was pronounced dead after he was found beside his garage at about 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Sheriff's Cmdr. Scott Malinosky said the suicide note was personal and meant for Andersen's family, and won't be released.

The autopsy report noted that Andersen's wrists were slashed and also had smaller cuts, called hesitation marks. The temperature Monday night dropped from 15 to 3 degrees above zero, with winds of about 10 miles per hour.

The Sheriff's Office also looked into Andersen's finances and didn't find anything that indicated "any significant financial hardship at this time."

Andersen was paid at a rate that would equal an annual income of nearly $114,000, according to 2003 state records.

Minneapolis Star Tribune

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