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Archive for Sunday, October 1, 2000

Business as usual?

October 1, 2000

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State officials will have their hands full trying to justify behavior in the Kansas Lottery office to taxpayers across Kansas.

Although the Kansas Lottery brings money into the state coffers and supports worthwhile economic development efforts, many Kansans still don't like the idea of state-sponsored gambling.

The money most people spend on the lottery is relatively small, but it still is gambling, which has a somewhat seedy image for many Kansans. Unfortunately, some of the news currently coming out of the Kansas Lottery office seems to confirm that image.

The Journal-World has come under fire from state officials for its publication of a photograph that showed the director of the lottery posing with female staff members wearing brassieres on their heads. "Publishing that photo without bothering to find out the circumstances surrounding it was unprofessional and very unfair," according to the lottery's new executive director. He explained the photograph was "just a joke," a moment of understandable "levity" in the lottery office, something that people could expect in just about any place of business.

His comments probably have many people pondering under exactly what circumstances such an occurrence would be considered acceptable and appropriate in their own place of employment.

What the lottery official considers an acceptable way for office employees to blow off a little steam strikes many other people as an inappropriate situation that would only be allowed to occur in an office that didn't maintain a professional work atmosphere. Not only that, but the powers-that-were in the lottery office apparently were insensitive to the fact that the brassiere incident made some workers uncomfortable enough that it might be considered a case of sexual harassment.

The former head of the Kansas Lottery left that job under questionable circumstances and declined to take a similar job in Connecticut after events in the Kansas office came to light. Another lottery employee faces charges for allegedly turning losing tickets into winning tickets. Reports of alcohol consumption during working hours and other inappropriate behavior have surfaced in a confidential administration report. There seems to be ample evidence that the work atmosphere in the lottery office was not what most Kansans would consider "business as usual." And questions about the handling of lottery money should be a concern of any Kansas taxpayer.

It's often said that the best defense is a strong offense. State officials may be taking the offensive by trying to put the situation in the Kansas Lottery in a better light, but the incidents that are being revealed will be difficult to defend to the people of Kansas.

State officials would serve us all better by addressing the obvious lottery problems rather than critiquing press coverage. Maybe it's time for the governor to step up and provide some leadership.

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