Appointee to Head Maryland Lottery Nearing Vote After Delays - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Appointee to Head Maryland Lottery Nearing Vote After Delays

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A Senate panel is scheduled to vote on the appointment of Maryland's acting lottery director - more than 21 months after Gov. Larry Hogan appointed him to the job.
    
If the Senate Executive Nominations Committee votes to send Gordon Medenica's appointment to the full Senate, it could trigger a contentious debate due to questions raised about conflicts of interest and his commitment to minority business participation goals.
    
Some senators have expressed confidence in Medenica's experience in a narrow field where expertise can be hard to find.
    
"I think you want someone who is going to head up that agency that has the experience - understands the industry inside and out - and also understands that they're there to make money for the state," said Sen. James DeGrange, D-Anne Arundel. "That's their job. They're basically raising lots of money for the state."
    
Others, however, have had questions about his background. That's because of his association with a company the lottery recommended for a state contract worth more than $260 million - a company he once was linked to - instead of a company with a less costly bid or a minority business enterprise, which had the lowest bid of all by about $50 million.
    
A vote by the panel on whether to send Medenica's nomination to the full Senate is expected Monday, after senators have requested repeated delays. The Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland opposed his confirmation in a letter last month, citing concerns about his commitment to minority business participation goals.
    
"I'm majorly concerned about a bias and a flaw in the procurement process," said Sen. Joan Conway, a Baltimore Democrat who is a member of the caucus, during a nomination hearing that Medenica attended late last month.
    
Hogan, a Republican, appointed Medenica to be director of the Maryland Lottery in May 2015. Before his appointment, he worked as a transitional CEO of Northstar New Jersey Lottery Group, which was partly owned by Scientific Games International Inc. He was director of the New York Lottery from 2007 to 2012. Before that, he was a longtime executive at the New York Times Co.
    
Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery, brought up Medenica's former work for the company connected to Scientific Games, which the Maryland Lottery recommended for an eight-year, $262 million contract for the lottery's central monitoring and control system last year while Medenica was serving as acting director.
    
"It has a lot of smoke around it. It may be because everyone is in the same smoke-filled room, there's always going to be a lot of smoke and we can't get around it," Madaleno said, adding that there is "some troubling information that I think, at least to the average person, would get them to say: 'How did this happen?'"
    
The two losing bidders for the Maryland filed protests last year against the lottery's recommendation, though both companies have since withdrawn their protests. London-based IGT Global Solutions Corp. had contended the lottery chose the most expensive bidder, inflating the contract for monitoring wagers to include kinds of internet gambling that aren't even allowed under state law. Gaming Innovations, which is a joint venture with black managers at the top who run the lottery in the District of Columbia, had protested that the lottery showed "undeniable bias."
    
While the lottery has recommended Scientific Games receive the contract, the Board of Public Works has the final say and hasn't awarded the contract yet.
    
Medenica, while being questioned by Conway at a Jan. 30 hearing, noted that the lottery raised the minority business participation requirement in the contract from 15 percent to 20 percent.
    
"And then we also extended the deadline for bids by two months so that the potential bidders would have sufficient time to raise that level of minority participation from 15 to 20 percent," Medenica said.
    
But Del. Cheryl Glenn, who chairs the black caucus, wrote in a letter last month that the goal was only raised to 20 percent "after caucus members objected." In her letter, Glenn noted that minorities are responsible for 55 to 70 percent of all traditional lottery sales in the state.
    
Glenn also has criticized Maryland's Medical Cannabis Commission for its selection of 15 finalists to grow marijuana, because the chosen companies lack minority ownership.
    
"There is a growing and deeply held perception that the State of Maryland is averse to (Minority Business Enterprise) participation," Glenn wrote, adding that's particularly true about large state contracts.
    
Sen. C. Anthony Muse said he expected Medenica's appointment will become "a real problem" on the Senate floor.
    
"We're going to have a strong floor fight on this," Muse, D-Prince George's, said Friday.
 

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