Winners and Losers

Lottery operator Gtech was especially kind to the political friends of Texas Comptroller John Sharp. But when supervision of the company was moved from Sharp's office, the party was over.

Deputy comptroller Hartman agrees that the job bonanza provided Sharp's office with a chance to make some friends happy, but says the hirings certainly weren't required of Gtech.

"It wasn't like we said, 'J. David, you gotta hire these people. Here's a company that's hiring a lot of people, and was actually kind of saying, 'We need names, we need to hire people, do you know good people?' And we were trying to take advantage of it and trying to send names over for them to hire."

Hartman says the comptroller is not responsible if some of the resumes turned out to be those of political activists unqualified for their jobs.

"It would be Gtech's mistake to hire people who can't do the job," says Hartman. "If they hired somebody it wasn't with state funds. It's their responsibility to run a good operation. If they want to waste money or do whatever they want, as long as the state is getting good service and the product it demands." Sharp, says Hartman, was satisfied that the company performed at that level.

Texas Lottery Commission spokesman Steve Levine acknowledges that officials with his agency also forwarded names of prospective employees to Gtech. "Obviously," says Levine, "if we suggested to Gtech that they might want to talk to people it would sort of make sense that they said, 'Nora said' or 'John said.' There's no question that we recommended people. It would be silly to think otherwise."

It might also be silly to think that J. David Smith, the political point man for Gtech, would make personal hiring calls around the state just to round up qualified workers for the lottery.

The jackpot ran out quickly for at least some of the early winners in the Texas lottery job sweepstakes.

Lynda Phillips, the Democratic activist from Tyler, was dismissed last year from her position as a Gtech district manager in another alleged instance of "breach of company policy." She has since taken a job with Land Commissioner Garry Mauro's office. Doris Hubbard is on disability from Gtech and running her Acres Homes political operation. Pat Ford is one of seven women who filed suit in Austin against Gtech after her promotions job was phased out last year. Three have since settled their cases. Non-political hire Tom Logans works at a building maintenance company in Houston, and his federal lawsuit against Gtech is now in the deposition stage. His onetime colleague Tom Hicks remains unemployed.

John Sharp, meanwhile, is flying high in the first year of his second term as state comptroller, having been easily re-elected last year while Ann Richards was ousted by George Bush.

And Gtech just keeps rolling along in Texas, having won another contract almost as big as the lottery -- this one for the electronic system to automate food stamps with Texas grocers. Transactive Corp., a Gtech subsidiary, surprised industry observers by edging out more established competition, and now runs the electronic card program. And if Transactive needs some more workers, the comptroller's office doesn't want to be left out.

"If Transactive were to say we gotta hire 10 people in Houston and if I knew somebody who needed a job in Houston," says deputy comptroller Hartman, "I'd say, 'Hey, call this person up. They're hiring!'

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