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Grilling Greer

Texas Lottery Commission chairman Reagan Greer was in the hot seat today as the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee looked into the expanding scandal over inflated jackpots. Among the latest revelations is an admission that they believe in killing the messenger at the TLC.

A former lottery official who was fired this month shortly after warning superiors about a projected jackpot shortfall said Wednesday that his termination came with no explanation and only about seven months after he received a positive evaluation and a 4 percent raise.

Lottery officials testified before a Texas House committee Wednesday that Lee Deviney was fired over a lack of confidence in his performance as the financial administration director, not the recent flap over inflated jackpots for the Texas Lotto game.

“The timing of this is very bad, and it’s unfortunate,” said Mike Fernandez, who supervised Deviney. “His release from the agency had absolutely nothing to do with this issue.”

Fernandez, the commission’s administration director, said he verbally warned Deviney about his job performance but never documented his concerns.

But Deviney said his June 14 termination came with no warning and soon after a June 3 e-mail message he sent alerting superiors that projected sales would not meet the planned jackpot estimate.

“I can’t say it was as a result of this, but I can’t say it wasn’t,” Deviney said in a telephone interview while vacationing in Colorado. “They didn’t say anything. I was handed a piece of paper by Mike Fernandez, and then he ran out the door.”

When he asked a human resources official why he was fired, Deviney said the official told him she couldn’t discuss it.

Deviney said he wasn’t shocked by his termination because firings aren’t uncommon in what he called a “generally hostile atmosphere” at the commission. He said he expected some repercussions after top officials learned of the shortfalls.

“I felt my job was just to alert them that we had a problem,” said Deviney, who was with the lottery for more than two years. “I was very concerned that someone’s head would roll and, in fact, somebody’s did.”

It was the wrong person’s head, unfortunately, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

OK, minute’s up: Reagan Greer has clearly demonstrated why he was unqualified for this job.

Executive Director Reagan Greer, who signed off on the overstated jackpots based on staff recommendations, reiterated his apology during testimony Wednesday before the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee.

Greer said he’d become comfortable in his position and stopped asking hard questions, but he maintained he never intended to deceive players.

Sure must be nice to have a job like that, where you can just settle in and coast after you’ve made yourself nice and comfy. This is all a nice way of saying Greer was lazy.

Deviney said he called lottery Executive Reagan Greer late in the afternoon of June 3 — a Friday — to express his concern that the $8 million jackpot estimate for the June 8 drawing would be off by $1.5 million. Because Greer had already left for the weekend, Deviney said, he put his concerns in an e-mail to Greer and other top lottery executives.

Officials could have pared down the estimate because advertisements for the June 8 Lotto drawings would not hit the billboards until after 10 p.m. on June 4.

At a contentious hearing before the House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures, lottery executives acknowledged that Deviney had aired those concerns.

Greer also said that he did not read Deviney’s e-mail or hear about it from any other lottery executives until Monday, June 6.

Can we please make sure that the TLC has enough in its budget to buy its next director one of these?

Once Reagan Greer did get around to reading his email, he went ahead and approved the deception.

[TLC] Chairman C. Tom Clowe was asked by members of the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee who specifically had deceived lottery players by advertising phony estimated jackpots four times since last fall.

Mr. Clowe answered: “The person who made the decision [to sign off on the estimates] … Reagan Greer.”

“The commissioners think this was deception and that it was wrong,” Mr. Clowe testified. “If those were my employees in the private sector … I would take the appropriate action and consider it a wrong act.”

Mr. Clowe stopped short of saying that Mr. Greer should lose his job over the issue.

Mr. Clowe knows what the right thing to do here is, but for some reason he can’t quite bring himself to say it. Alas, he’s not the only one to fall short.

State Rep. Ismael Flores, D-Mission, chairman of the committee that oversees the Lottery Commission, said he is not calling for Greer’s resignation, but reminded him sternly that other state employees have been fired for lesser mistakes.

“I know of a lot of employees that are doing something else because they made one, two, three mistakes,” Flores said. “I mean, I’m not asking for your resignation – but think about people doing something else.”

How many more mistakes does Reagan Greer have to make before he’s held accountable for them?

“If there is one agency that needs oversight, that’s the one,” said Rep. Corbin Van Arsdale, R-Tomball, who is not a committee member but sat in on the hearing and questioned officials. “I think the mismanagement in there is far more substantive, far more pervasive than any of the news stories have led me to believe.”

If so, maybe that’ll finally be enough to get Governor Perry to take responsibility for hiring Reagan Greer and do what needs to be done.

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