The D.C. Lottery Board, after a stormy day of continued conflict over the lucrative daily numbers game contract, voted yesterday to reject all three bids it received in January to operate the game--including the one it had already accepted--and said it intends to call for new bids.
Meanwhile, Lottery Technology Enterprises, the firm selected by the lottery board in March as the apparent contract winner, filed a $12 million damage suit in D.C. Superior Court, alleging improper conduct by top city officials, including the corporation counsel and all three of the city's deputy mayors, in pressuring the board to reverse its award.
The suit did not name Mayor Marion Barry as a defendant, but alleged that he urged lottery board members to award the contract to a rival bidder, Columbia Gaming Services Inc. Barry declined to comment directly on the suit last night, but said that no one in his administration favors any one firm. Columbia Gaming is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Lawyers for Lottery Technology, in a separate court action, also asked the D.C. Court of Appeals to reverse a decision by Superior Court Judge Richard S. Salzman on Monday that allowed the board to take yesterday's action canceling the previous bids and asking for new ones. The Court of Appeals scheduled a hearing on this issue for noon on Friday.
In a contentious meeting, the lottery board rejected a forceful plea from board Chairman Brant Coopersmith to delay a decision on asking for new bids for at least two days to allow time for a new bid proposal to be drafted.
The board then voted 3 to 2, with Coopersmith and board member Jerry Cooper dissenting, to cancel the old bids and ask for new ones.
In the midst of the meeting, Coopersmith talked by telephone with principal deputy corporation counsel Frederick Dorsey, and begged him to try to get Salzman to agree to the two-day delay. But Dorsey refused.
Coopersmith, who until last weekend had resisted strong pressure to reopen the bids--including threats to fire him--from Mayor Barry and his top aides, said in a press conference after the meeting that he feared the drafting of a formal bid proposal by the corporation counsel would take considerable time, further delaying the start of a daily numbers game.
The board's move to solicit new bids is expected to postpone the once-planned July 18 start of the game until at least sometime in October, according to city officials, and will cost the cash-strapped city government more than $7 million in anticipated revenues.
In the suit, Lottery Technology, a joint venture involving a Rhode Island-based computer firm and four relatively unknown D.C. minority-controlled firms, charged that D.C. Deputy Mayors Ivanhoe Donaldson, Alphonse G. Hill and Elijah Rogers and Corporation Counsel Judith W. Rogers "intentionally, willfully, maliciously and unlawfully" pressured the board "through the use of threats and deception" to cancel the contract award to Lottery Technology. The suit also charged that the officials favored the selection of Columbia Gaming, which submitted the most expensive bid to operate the game.
In the appeal, Lottery Technology charged that Salzman erred by not hearing evidence about the allegedly improper pressure on the lottery board before ruling that the board could again seek bids.
Meanwhile, five D.C. City Council members urged the lottery board to reject any new bids that involve firms that do business in South Africa.