A D.C. Superior Court judge yesterday blocked lawyers for the firm that was awarded the contract to run the city's daily numbers game from taking any out-of-court testimony in a $12 million damage suit that alleges top aides of Mayor Marion Barry pressured the D.C. Lottery Board to rescind the selection.
Instead, Judge Eugene N. Hamilton said that before he allows any testimony to be given in the case, he will hear arguments at a later date on the city's claim that the Lottery Technology Enterprises suit is baseless and should be dismissed.
Hamilton said that to require the five members of the lottery board to submit to a wide-ranging examination about any pressure placed on them before they reluctantly agreed last week to resolicit new bids "will severely impede its ability to carry out its statutory duties" in making a new selection. He issued his ruling just 20 minutes before Lottery Technology's lawyers had planned to start taking the testimony of lottery board Chairman Brant Coopersmith.
Several board members have said that Barry and his top aides threatened to try to fire the board members if they did not agree to cancel the selection of Lottery Technology and resolicit bids.
Lottery Technology's suit alleges that deputy mayors Ivanhoe Donaldson, Elijah Rogers and Alphonse G. Hill, Corporation Counsel Judith W. Rogers and a Hill aide, William Y. Kao, "intentionally, willfully, maliciously and unlawfully" pressured the board and conspired to give the contract to one of the losing bidders, Columbia Gaming Services Inc. Barry is not a defendant in the suit.
Lottery Technology has asked that Corporation Counsel Rogers be blocked from representing the lottery board and that the officials be barred from "communicating with and threatening" lottery board members " . . . except at public meetings."
Assistant Corporation Counsel Martin L. Grossman has, among other things, claimed that the Barry aides cannot be held liable for their official government actions and described the lawsuit yesterday as "a lot of smoke." He said the city officials "legally advised the lottery board that they could not sign a contract that is contrary to D.C. law," a reference to a disputed claim by the city officials that Lottery Technology's bid did not meet a city requirement that at least 25 percent of its revenue from the contract would go to minorities.
At yesterday's hearing, Hamilton repeatedly said that he had no evidence to show that any of Barry's top aides were pressuring the lottery board "or that it is likely to occur."
Attorney Robert P. Watkins of the law firm of Williams & Connolly, which represents Lottery Technology, protested Hamilton's ruling. He asked permission to take the out-of-court testimony of one board member in an attempt to demonstrate the pressure used by Barry and his top aides.
But Hamilton said that to require board members to give testimony would result in "a very substantial disruption, if not intimidating effect on the board."
Watkins contended that the ruling "closes the door to pressures from this litigation, but it doesn't close the door to pressures from the city administration."