SACRAMENTO — Gov. Pete Wilson removed the state lottery's chief deputy director Thursday, replacing him with a tough bureaucrat who has a reputation for trouble-shooting in problem-plagued agencies.
Wilson named Adelbert (Del) Pierce, a longtime state administrator who has most recently served as executive director of the Public Employment Relations Board, to immediately assume the post held by James Barnett.
Governor's spokesman Kevin Eckery said Barnett will be given an as yet undetermined job in the Administration. He declined to give a reason for Barnett's removal other than to say "it's a personnel matter."
Sources in the Wilson Administration said the governor's decision to replace Barnett was prompted by recent allegations that Barnett had manipulated the agency's contracting process. Barnett has denied that he did anything improper.
The sources said the selection of Pierce, who has held numerous positions in the Wilson and George Deukmejian administrations, is a signal that the governor wants to strengthen the management of the high-profile agency.
The lottery, under the direction of Sharon Sharp, has been criticized in recent months for its handling of major contracts. Last spring, the governor's office investigated the agency's contracting procedures after only one company, GTECH Corp. of Rhode Island, responded to a request for bids on a $400-million contract to operate the lottery's computerized games.
Wilson later absolved the agency of any wrongdoing but observed that an internal audit had raised troubling questions about its bidding procedures.
Two weeks ago, the agency was criticized again when Sharp proposed that GTECH be awarded a $23-million non-competitive contract to install and operate automated devices for cashing in winning Scratcher tickets.
As the California Lottery Commission was preparing to vote on the recommendation, a lawyer for a GTECH competitor stepped forward and charged that Scientific Games, a Georgia-based company, had also been interested in the contract but that Barnett had discouraged it from bidding.
He said Scientific Games officials told him they had been advised by Barnett in a telephone call that their bid would "not be welcome." Scientific Games officials have declined to comment.
Sharp acknowledged that there had been a telephone call to Scientific Games officials, but said it was only to advise them that their bid would be rejected if it included certain computer software that the lottery found unacceptable.