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Archive for Sunday, January 7, 2001

Allegations dog lottery

Employee says complaints about pornography, racism backfired

January 7, 2001

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— A Kansas Lottery employee says that he was unjustly reprimanded for refusing to keep quiet about pornography that he found on some of the office's computers.

Todd Kinney, a computer technician, filed a complaint last week with the Kansas Human Rights Commission, accusing lottery officials of subjecting him to harassment and discrimination after he contacted Gov. Bill Graves' office.

In the complaint, Kinney, who is black, said he discovered "offensive racial and sexual images" on some of the office computers in October.

A source familiar with the complaint said the images included:

A video depicting anal sex.

A photograph of a lottery worker with swastikas on his tie and lapel, posing in front of a Nazi flag. The worker also has an Adolf Hitler-style mustache. It's unclear whether the image was computer-generated or taken from an actual photograph.

A "Girls of the Lottery" Web site that imitates advertisements for telephone sex. The three-screen site included photographs of five women who are current or former lottery employees. One of the photographs features a woman, identified as "Dirty Bertie," posing open-mouthed over what appears to be a lollipop stuck in a hot dog.

Officials 'did nothing'

Wording below the "Dirty Bertie" photograph encourages would-be callers to "watch her live as she performs her O.J. all-day sucker act," adding, "She'll have you wishing you were made of candy too."

Wording below the photograph of "Mistress Jane" says "This sexy dominatrix is into S/M B/D WF BF BFD NAACP PTA DMV ERA IRS OVC IBM DOA NRA PPD."

Each of the photographs includes the worker's office telephone number with a "1 (900)" prefix.

Contacted by the Journal-World, Kinney declined comment.

But in the public portion of his complaint, Kinney said lottery officials "did nothing" after being told about the "offensive racial and sexual images."

The complaint also alleges Kinney was reprimanded for later taking his concerns to the governor's office.

Kinney went to work for the lottery in November 1999. He still works there.

Ed Van Petten, executive director at the lottery, declined comment on Kinney's complaint.

"That's (a) personnel (issue)," he said. "I can't say anything."

Lottery computers

Van Petten said the obscene or suggestive images involved a single computer and were discovered during an in-house investigation.

"Our investigation showed the activity occurred in 1996 and that the computer in question had been out of service for two years," he said. "It was in a storage area."

The computer's hard drive was disabled, he said.

But Kinney's attorney, Pat Nichols of Topeka, said that wasn't true.

"It's my understanding that the offensive material was found on at least two computers, one of which was still in use and one that Mr. Kinney had taken out of service shortly before it was discovered," he said.

Both computers, Nichols said, had been used to create and maintain the lottery's Web site.

Van Petten would not say what disciplinary actions were taken against the workers responsible for the images. "Again, that's personnel," he said.

The lottery comes up for reauthorization during the 2001 legislative session, which convenes Monday. Kinney's complaint coincides with several events that have lawmakers questioning the lottery's internal operations:

Gov. Bill Graves encouraged former lottery director Greg Ziemak to resign in March 2000 after reports of ineffective handling of reports of sexual misconduct among some lottery employees.

Ziemak resigned Oct. 1. He was replaced by Van Petten.

Former lottery employee Richard Knowlton was arrested Sept. 18 on charges of using rigged scratch tickets to steal nearly $63,000. His trial is set for April 20.

A former employee of GTECH, the company that runs the lottery's online games, filed a complaint Sept. 26 with the Human Rights Commission, accusing her boss of pressuring her to dig up dirt on Van Petten.

A company spokesman denied the allegation, but two other former employees have said they're willing to testify in her behalf.

GTECH sponsored Christmas parties for lottery employees in Topeka, Great Bend and Wichita despite a state law prohibiting contractors from buying meals for state employees.

GTECH and lottery officials have said the prime rib buffets were only snacks and therefore legal.

'A lot of angst'

"Don't you find yourself wondering what these people were thinking when they did this?" asked Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, referring to the images found on the lottery computers.

Nevertheless, she said she expected the lottery to be reauthorized.

"I don't sense much legislative angst on reauthorizing the lottery. I think it will be renewed," Praeger said. "But on this other stuff, oh my, there's a lot of angst. Everybody's wondering what the heck is going on over there."

"There's really not a mechanism for (dealing with) this kind of thing in the governor's office," Graves' spokesman Don Brown said of the Kinney allegations. "This is why the Human Rights Commission exists.

"I don't know the details of this case, but if this individual has taken his concerns to the Human Rights Commission, that would be the appropriate action for this individual to take. Beyond that, I doubt that we'll have much to say; we'll let the Human Rights Commission handle it. We wouldn't presume to get in the middle of their business."

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