Today is a good day to be glad that you don't work for the Texas Lottery Commission, where regular firings for no apparent reason appear to be business as usual.
According to documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle and interviews with more than a dozen former lottery employees and a current employee, the 325-employee Texas Lottery is plagued by deflated morale that has sent personnel fleeing to other agencies.
"If I were a lottery employee, I'd be scared to death," state Rep. Kino Flores, D-Palmview, told lottery officials last month in a hearing of the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, which oversees the agency.
Flores began investigating the agency's firing practices after learning that former financial director Lee Deviney was terminated a week and a half after warning Grief and others that Lotto sales couldn't cover the advertised June 8 jackpot.
Just eight months earlier, Deviney had received a positive evaluation and a raise.
Lottery officials insist Deviney's firing was bad timing and had nothing to do with jackpots. They gave no other explanation.
Flores says he thinks Deviney's firing and the inflated jackpot are symptoms of systemic problems.
"It's a direct link between the morale of the lottery and the product they're producing," Flores said. "It's affecting their day-to-day operations and their day-to-day decisions.''
Spokesman Bobby Heith couldn't address specific cases but said, "I don't get the sense that there's a culture of fear, or whatever, of being terminated for no reason."
[Lottery Commission Human Resources Director Diane] Morris defended her right to fire employees without warning or reason, saying due process was unnecessary. She acknowledged that the agency doesn't document employee problems in some cases.
That shocked Rep. Corbin Van Arsdale, R-Tomball, who asked how the agency might defend itself against a discrimination lawsuit.
Sworn testimony, Morris replied.
"So," Van Arsdale continued, "he-said, she-said and you just hope the jury sides with you?"
Morris paused, then nodded.
"Wow," Van Arsdale said.