- Associated Press - Monday, February 27, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - The Maryland Senate confirmed the state’s lottery director Monday night, more than 21 months after Republican Gov. Larry Hogan appointed him.

The Democrat-controlled Senate voted 27-17 to confirm Gordon Medenica.

Some senators expressed confidence in his experience during hearings on his appointment. He was the director of the New York Lottery form 2007 to 2012. And the Hogan administration cites a record $1.08 billion the lottery has raised for the state’s general fund, education and other causes under Medenica’s stewardship.

Some senators, however, criticized the appointment. They raised questions about conflicts of interest, his commitment to minority business participation goals and a lack of transparency regarding answers to questions about his background.

Critics focused on the lottery’s recommendation to award an eight-year $262 million contract for the lottery’s central monitoring and control system to a company that had the highest bid, instead of a minority-led firm whose bid was $50 million lower. They noted that Medenica had once worked for the winning bidder, Scientific Games International Inc. Medenica worked as a transitional CEO of Northstar New Jersey Lottery Group, which was partly owned by SGI. Critics also noted that a member of the evaluation committee that chose SGI had once worked for the company.

Supporters of Medenica’s appointment have noted that it’s a narrow industry with a fairly small number of experts.

“The seven-member evaluation committee received bids from the only three companies in the world that are qualified to fulfill the contract. This committee, which did not include Director Medenica, was required to select the bidder that represents the ‘best value’ to the state,” the lottery said last week in a statement. “This does not mean simply accepting the lowest bid; it means selecting the vendor that will perform at the highest level for the state. It was made clear in all communications to potential bidders that technical factors outweigh price, as is the case in the majority of lottery procurements across the country.”

Sen. C. Anthony Muse, D-Prince George’s, noted that the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland has opposed his appointment. Muse said he could not get adequate answers about the contract, receiving only generalizations for answers to specific questions with nothing to back them up.

“In this day when you see these broad unverified statements in an effort to not be transparent, you have to - at least I do - ask myself what are the facts, and I asked for the facts. I was stonewalled at every request, and that should give us all concern,” Muse said. “It should have been an easy process to get these answers.”

Medenica, while being questioned by Sen. Joan Conway, D-Baltimore, at a Jan. 30 hearing, noted that the lottery raised the minority business participation requirement in the contract from 15 percent to 20 percent. He also said the lottery extended the deadline for bids by two months to give potential bidders sufficient time to raise the level of minority participation.

But Del. Cheryl Glenn, who chairs the black caucus, wrote in a letter last month that the goal was only raised to 20 percent “after caucus members objected.” In her letter, Glenn also noted that minorities are responsible for 55 to 70 percent of all traditional lottery sales in the state.

The issue of minority business enterprise participation also has been raised in Maryland’s developing medical marijuana industry. Glenn also has criticized Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Commission for its selection of 15 finalists to grow marijuana, because the chosen companies lacked minority ownership.

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