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Lottery Panel Confirmation Put on Hold : Legislature: Senate will look into two interim appointees' role in awarding a lucrative computer contract that attracted only one bidder.

May 07, 1993|VIRGINIA ELLIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — The California Senate held up the confirmation of two of Gov. Pete Wilson's appointees to the state Lottery Commission on Thursday, saying it wanted to look into their handling of a disputed $400-million computer contract.

Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys) said the Senate Rules Committee would re-examine Daniel E. Apodaca, a Pasadena accountant, and Richard A. Cramer, a San Diego businessman, in the wake of questions that have surfaced over their April 21 decision to award the lucrative contract to the Rhode Island-based GTECH Corp.

On Feb. 11, the Senate committee voted 5 to 0 to approve the two nominees, but they had not yet come before the full Senate. The appointees can serve up to one year without Senate confirmation.

To help in the Senate's re-examination, Roberti said the committee will ask Wilson for access to an audit by a gubernatorial task force that conducted an extensive inquiry earlier this year into the lottery's contracting process.

Wilson has so far declined to make the report public, although he wrote to lottery officials in March saying the task force's examination had uncovered no criminal wrongdoing in the lottery's handling of the GTECH contract. He said, however, that it had raised "troubling questions" about the agency's ability to handle major contracts.

Roberti said the Senate inquiry was being made at the request of Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), who said he was concerned that the five lottery commissioners had become rubber stamps for the decisions of lottery Director Sharon Sharp.

"The conclusion I draw is that they certainly haven't functioned as watchdogs. I think they should be thanked for their services and encouraged to go back to private business," Hayden said in an interview.

A Wilson spokesman accused Hayden of exceeding the bounds of the Senate's confirmation powers.

"These are competent and qualified people who have been performing their job in an exemplary fashion," said spokesman Dan Schnur. "Just because Tom Hayden disagrees with the result of their work doesn't give him the right to criticize their competence. They ran a fair (bid) process, an open process and an honest process."

Hayden complained that the two commissioners routinely approved Sharp's decisions with few, if any, questions. He said the panel had endorsed her recommendation to award at least three major contracts without competitive bids.

For two of the contracts--one to GTECH for computer terminals and the other to Battelle Memorial Institute, a consulting firm--he said there was no attempt to get outside bids. The third, the $400-million computer contract, did go out to competitive bid but only GTECH responded, he said.

Potential competitors refused to bid, saying the timetable for completing the project was so short that only GTECH, the current contractor, could meet it.

Sharp has said in the first two instances that the lottery had to act quickly and did not have time to go through a formal bidding process. To have done so, she said, would have caused delays resulting in a loss of revenues.

As for the $400-million contract, she said the time frame was standard for the industry and competitors were only complaining because they were not prepared to bid on such a massive project.

Apodaca had been nominated by Wilson to a four-year term on the commission and Cramer to a two-year term.

Times staff writer Carl Ingram contributed to this story.

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