The D.C. Lottery Board, threatened with a possible shutdown following the City Council's refusal to grant it an additional $1.5 million in operating funds this year, kept its doors open yesterday but fired nearly one-fourth of its 80-member staff.
Willis E. Johnson, deputy director of the lottery board, said the 17 clerks and secretaries told yesterday that they were losing their jobs effective Friday were under open-ended contracts that could be terminated at any time. He declined to rule out the possibility that other jobs might be eliminated as well.
"I'd like to say there won't be more layoffs, but I can't hang my hat on that, to be perfectly honest," Johnson said.
The layoffs were ordered by lottery board officials in an apparent effort to appease City Council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6), who persuaded the council on Tuesday to cut the additional operating money for the board from the city's fiscal 1983 supplemental budget.
Winter, who contends that the lottery board staff is bloated and that lottery officials have not adequately documented their need for additional funds to get through the year, held a closed-door meeting with four of the five board members in her office late yesterday.
Before that meeting, Winter told reporters she might favor giving the lottery board an additional $900,000 this year if lottery officials cooperate with her in trying to make the agency more cost-efficient.
"I think that if they board officials say what they need and document it . . . I suspect the mayor and the City Council would find the necessary funds to keep them operating," Winter said.
After the meeting, lottery board Chairman Brant Coopersmith said the board will prepare a revised, scaled-back budget request to submit to Mayor Marion Barry and council members late today. "It was a profitable meeting," Coopersmith said.
Barry, who has feuded with board members and is trying to gain more control of the board's operations, included the board's original request for more funds in the supplemental budget he sent to the council in April.
However, the mayor did virtually nothing to protect those funds when Winter, who oversees the lottery board as chairman pro tem of the council, recommended on May 20 that the money be deleted from the budget.
Winter, a close ally of the mayor, denied yesterday that Barry had influenced her decision to seek to block the additional funds for the lottery board, which already has overspent its 1983 operating budget by $110,000.
"I refuse to discuss the lottery with the mayor," said Winter. "I really don't know what the mayor wants. The only thing I want to do is generate every nickel possible out of this lottery."
Coopersmith said that the current budget crisis will not directly affect the city's instant-winner lottery operation, which began a new game yesterday called "3-of-a-Kind."
The mayor's budget office estimates that the lottery games this year will gross $78.3 million in sales and net $21 million for the general fund.
Lottery board officials, who received written approval from city budget director Betsy Reveal to spend beyond their current budget until supplemental funds were approved, said yesterday they were caught by surprise when the council denied them the funds.
George Thomas III, the board's controller, said the budget crisis and a rash of criticism of the lottery operations have hurt employe morale. "The staff is working hard, but everyday they pick up the press and they get kicked in the ass and it's unfair," Thomas said.
In light of the council action, the lottery board has ordered a moratorium on all spending for supplies, services and travel, except expenditures that directly relate to the operation of the ongoing instant-winner game.
Lottery officials said yesterday the new "3-of-a-Kind" game is doing better than expected, with more than 1.2 million tickets sold to vendors yesterday.