A D.C. Superior Court judge yesterday agreed to let the District's Lottery Board resolicit bids for the lucrative daily numbers contract, brushing aside objections from the firm previously awarded the right to operate the game.
Judge Richard S. Salzman postponed the effective date of his order until tomorrow, however, so that lawyers for Lottery Technology Enterprises, the firm that was chosen as the contractor in March, could appeal his decision to the D.C. Court of Appeals. David Povich, one of the firm's lawyers, said the appeal would be filed today.
During two hearings, Povich repeatedly claimed that the lottery board only decided to resolicit bids to end the protracted dispute over the contract after D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and his top aides threatened over the last few days to force the five-member board to resign if it did not agree to resolicit bids, or to sue the board to require the resolicitation. Various lottery sources have said the board has been pressured to resolicit the bids.
"The conduct of the D.C. Lottery Board has been coerced," Povich told the judge at one point. "It was not a free decision."
But Salzman told Povich, "The lottery board has the right, as I understand it, to cancel all awards. I don't think I have the authority to order the board to give the contract to anyone."
Moreover, the judge said that "one man's pressure is another man's advice."
Povich said he would ask the appeals court to reverse Salzman and "specifically consider our contention that the board was not permitted to decide this matter freely."
Meanwhile yesterday, Lottery Board chairman Brant Coopersmith told members of the City Council at a hearing that both Barry and City Administrator Elijah B. Rogers had threatened to fire him and other members of the board if they did not agree to reopen bidding.
"The mayor said, 'If you can't see it this way you ought to resign, and if you don't resign I'll have you removed,' " Coopersmith said of a meeting with Barry on Sunday.
But Coopersmith said he had acted "freely and without coercion" in his vote to reopen bidding. And under questioning from Council Chairman David A. Clarke, board members denied that any city official had lobbied for a specific firm to win the contract.
Council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) said she believed that the Sunday meeting at which the board voted to reopen bidding violated the board's own rules on giving public notice of an upcoming meeting. She said she saw no reason for city officials to become involved with the contract award.
Barry, interviewed outside the District Building last night, dismissed suggestions that his administration wanted the bidding reopened to benefit one of the competing companies.
"Nobody in authority in my administration favors one company over another," Barry said. "That is as clear as a spring brook."
Barry said the city would not have been in court "if I didn't have this runaway board," and he disputed Coopersmith's assertion that he threatened to fire the board members.
"I said that if you do not believe that we should do all we can to protect minority revenue flow you ought to resign," Barry said yesterday.
Barry said he acted quickly to keep the lottery contract from becoming bogged down in court. "I'm always going to protect the integrity of the District of Columbia government," Barry said. "I want the law to be adherred to."
The board had hoped to start the game, identical to the one now operating in Maryland, on July 18, a date Coopersmith now says will be pushed back to sometime in October.
Within days after the lottery agency awarded the contract to Lottery Technology, a joint venture of a Rhode Island-based computer firm and four little-known D.C. minority-controlled companies, the two losing bidders--D.C. Data Co. and Columbia Gaming Services Inc.--filed protests of the selection, claiming that Lottery Technology was not a valid minority-controlled firm.
City law requires that minority firms be given at least 25 percent of the value of all city government contracts. But a city contract review committee concluded that the lottery agency may not have had enough information about the companies' offers to include minorities in their ventures and could actually be awarding the contract to a "minority shell or front."
"The raising of this question revenues to minorities , wherever it came from, whoever raised it, has cost millions of dollars," Coopersmith said at the City Council hearing yesterday, referring to estimates that the city will lose up to $7 million in revenue as a result of the delay caused by reopening the bidding.
"The raising of the question, however well intentioned, was destructive," Coopersmith said. "Not one of the bidders raised this question. The question was raised by the government. We shot ourselves in the foot."