Archive for Friday, March 2, 2001

Lottery contractor GTECH being sued

Former employee claims company trying to ‘discredit’ her

March 2, 2001

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A Lawrence woman who last year filed a sexual harassment complaint against the company that runs the Kansas Lottery's online games says her case is headed to federal court.

Kelly Fisher, who said she quit her job after being pressured to dig up dirt on lottery officials, said efforts to settle her complaint broke down after company officials leaked terms of a settlement offer to key legislators.

"They are trying to discredit me," Fisher said of GTECH Corp., the Rhode Island-based lottery contractor.

GTECH officials confirmed Thursday they disclosed Fisher's demands to a few key legislators. A copy of the letter from Fisher's attorney, Brenda Head of Topeka, to GTECH's lawyer also was faxed by GTECH to the Journal-World.

The letter presents GTECH with two settlement options:

l An acceptable letter of recommendation, a public apology, and a lump sum payment to Fisher of $2.25 million. Or:

l Fisher's rehiring to a GTECH position comparable to the one she left, a public apology, a lump sum payment of $1.25 million, and the firing of Fisher's former supervisor, Anthony Hucker.

GTECH vice president Robert Vincent called Fisher's proposals "ludicrous" and threatening. But her attorney said GTECH solicited the settlement offers.

Under its contract with the Kansas Lottery, GTECH is paid about $7 million a year to run the agency's computerized games including Keno, Pick 3, Kansas Cash and Powerball. Since 1987, the lottery has routinely extended the contract without putting it up for competitive bid.

The contract is up for renewal later this year. Some lawmakers are pushing for reopening bids for the services GTECH provides.

Fisher has accused Anthony Hucker, head of GTECH's operations in Kansas, of ordering her to have dinner and drinks alone with Ed Van Petten, then deputy director of the Kansas Lottery, at a restaurant near Van Petten's home.

The arrangement, Fisher said, was intended to minimize Van Petten's risk if he drove home intoxicated.

Four months later, Van Petten was named lottery executive director.

Fisher insists Hucker's directive was aimed at putting Van Petten in a compromising position, making him vulnerable in future negotiations with GTECH. Fisher, 35, is single, Van Petten, 47, is married.

"I was disgusted," said Fisher. She quit a month after her disagreement with Hucker.

Van Petten has denied any knowledge of the incident, noting that he was not approached by Fisher.

Vincent said an internal investigation by GTECH has refuted Fisher's allegations.

"I can only reiterate what I've said in the past," said Vincent. "We dispute the allegations and claims that have been made. They are unfounded."

Other former GTECH employees have confirmed Fisher's allegations that Hucker instructed them to "dig up dirt" on lottery officials.

But in a Thursday meeting with reporters from the Journal-World and the Topeka Capital-Journal, Fisher, accompanied by her attorney, said:

Hucker, who's from England, was so insistent on her courting Van Petten that he called her from England to find out if she had set up a rendezvous.

At the time of the call, Fisher was attending a YWCA Leadership luncheon in Topeka. Lottery officials, she said, interrupted the featured speaker's remarks to have her paged.

After the call, Fisher returned to her table, where she was sitting with lottery personnel director Pat Writt, who, upon hearing why Hucker had called, advised her to file a complaint with GTECH's human resources department.

GTECH's human resources department advised her to discuss her concerns with Hucker, who, at the time, was still in England.

Upon his return, Hucker told Fisher she had misunderstood him.

During their meeting, she said, Hucker leaned forward and said "'You know I could get in trouble for this. This could destroy my career.'"

Fisher called the meeting "a scary situation" and "very intimidating."

GTECH officials routinely maintained dossiers on lottery executives, detailing their likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.

When Hucker moved to Kansas, he bought a house in Lawrence next door to the home of then-Lottery Director Greg Ziemak in an apparent effort to befriend him.

Fisher's attorney, Brenda Head, said offers to settle the case for $1.25 million to $2.25 million represent the amounts available to her under the law. And, she said, the offers were provided at GTECH's request and were subject to negotiation.

"These are not outrageous amounts in a case of this nature," she said.

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