July 08, 2005
Reagan Greer resigns

There were straws in the wind earlier this week that embattled Lottery Commission Executive Director Reagan Greer might get fired by the Commission, but today he spared them the bother by resigning.

"It has become clear to me over the last weeks that the way this scenario was playing out, a change of leadership was needed for me and for the agency," Greer said in an interview shortly after submitting his resignation letter to Lottery Commission Chairman C. Thomas Clowe.

Greer, whose annual salary was $110,000, found himself in the center of a swirling controversy after the Star-Telegram reported that he had signed off on a recommendation to advertise the June 8 Lotto Texas jackpot at $8 million even though it was clear that ticket sales would not support a prize of more than $6.5 million.

Two weeks later, the three-member panel that oversees the lottery criticized Greer for lax management and said the inflated jackpot estimate undermined the public's faith in the agency that generates $1 billion annually for the state.

Greer and other top lottery executives were also chastised last week for the controversy by a legislative committee. The lawmakers also were critical of the decision to fire a lottery staffer who helped make the inflated jackpot recommendation but then later raised a red flag, saying the figure should have been revised downward before the advertisements went up.

The lottery's oversight panel also served notice last week that it planned to meet behind closed doors on Monday to discuss whether Greer and other top managers should be disciplined or reassigned. Greer said he met privately with Clowe on Thursday and came away with the impression that his position had become untenable.

"We had a very candid conversation, and he was very upfront," Greer said. "I just felt like after that meeting that it was going to give me some insight to what I needed to do in making a decision, and it did play a role."

Good riddance. His words and actions have made it clear that he couldn't do the job, and so the sooner he left, the better. But having been among those who called for his removal, I'm taking heed of what Dawn Nettles has to say about it.

Dawn Nettles, a Garland resident who first brought the false estimates to light last month, said Friday that Mr. Greer was falling on the sword for employees who were responsible for the problems.

Deputy Director Gary Grief, who has been with the lottery since it began, and General Counsel Kim Kipling were among those named by Ms. Nettles as being "just as responsible for this as Reagan Greer" for long-term deception in the state's lottery games.

"I feel sorry for him," said Ms. Nettles, who publishes LottoReport.com. "They [Ms. Kipling and Mr. Grief] have been deceiving the public for a lot longer. Even though Reagan was not qualified for the job, he was set up. ... Now let's see if the guilty ones resign, too."

Rep. Kino Flores, chairman of the House committee charged with overseeing the commission, agreed Mr. Greer was "a fall guy" for the "four or five employees directly under him."

"He either got forced, squeezed, or took the fall," said Mr. Flores, D-Mission. "He was being proactive and he had accepted the responsibility, but that enormous responsibility and the deception to that level should not have been put on one pair of shoulders."

I'm sympathetic to all this, but if all this is true, I have to ask: Whose job is it to get rid of those "four or five" employees who are the real problem? I mean, if they were "directly under" Reagan Greer, couldn't he have taken action against them? It seems to me that either he didn't understand the situation, or he got outmaneuvered. Either way, that again suggests he was the wrong person for the job.

Finally, what does the person who put Reagan Greer in this job have to say about his departure from it?

A former politician who saw his lack of lottery experience as an asset, Mr. Greer had been in the post for just less than two and a half years. He was tapped for the $110,000-a-year job after the commission changed the qualifications, allowing someone without a college degree to assume the position.

At the time, Mr. Greer, a Bexar County GOP operative, had lost a re-election campaign for county clerk, and Gov. Rick Perry reportedly championed him for the lottery job.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for Mr. Perry praised the director's decision to quit without directly blaming him for the troubles.

"Reagan Greer has served the state of Texas ably in his capacity as executive director, and his resignation will serve to restore public confidence in the lottery," said spokeswoman Kathy Walt.

So I guess that means that if he'd continued to ably serve the state of Texas in his capacity as executive director, public confidence in the lottery would have continued to plummet. That makes as much sense as anything one of Perry's flacks ever says.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 08, 2005 to Jackpot! | TrackBack