Questions Raised On Communication Of Lotto Leadership Changes


TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Kansas Lottery is getting a new leader.

Gov. Sam Brownback announced Wednesday that he's appointed Terry Presta as the lottery's executive director. The appointment is effective January 2nd.

Presta was president and CEO of Overland Park-based Presto Convenience Stores. He brings nearly 30 years of business experience to the post.
  
He also served in the legislature from 1995 to 1999.
   
Presta succeeds interim directors Dennis Taylor and Sherriene Jones-Sontag. 
 

Dennis Taylor's announcement Friday that he was leaving the Kansas Lottery raised questions over leadership transitions at the organization over the past year.

In inquiring about Taylor's decision, 13 News was surprised to learn Taylor only served as lottery director in an interim capacity and, in fact, left the position in July.

A news release from Gov. Sam Brownback's office last December announced Dennis Taylor's appointment as the new executive director of the Kansas Lottery, with no mention of it being on an interim basis.

Brownback's communications director Eileen Hawley tells 13 News that several weeks after the release was issued, Taylor informed the Governor he didn't intend to stay longer than a year, so his title was changed to interim. She acknowledges no new public release was issued. She said it was viewed as a simple personnel change. For an interim position, she says, notifications typically aren't viewed as necessary since they don't go through the confirmation process.

Hawley says, by statute, a person cannot serve as interim director longer than six months. Because of that, effective July 11, she says, Taylor moved to the newly created position of special projects director and deputy director Sherriene Jones-Sontag was named interim director.

No public notification was issued on the change. Hawley said the governor's office did send a letter to the Secretary of Administration, which is what's required.

As for who else was informed the leadership change had occurred, the Kansas Lottery executive director position is subject to Kansas Senate confirmation, so 13 News contacted several senators.

Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, who is Senate vice president, said he couldn't say for sure whether he was notified of the change, but didn't feel he was in a position that would require it.

Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, who chairs the federal and state affairs committee which deals with many lottery issues, told 13 News he doesn't check email often and could have missed a notification. In general terms, he said lawmakers should be told of a personnel change like this to foster open government.

The three senators from the Topeka area - Democratic leader Anthony Hensley, minority whip Laura Kelly and Republican Vicki Schmidt - all told 13 News they did not know Jones-Sontag was leading the lottery and expressed concerns about the lack of communication.

One exception was majority leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson. He says he was informed of the planned transitions in his role as chairman of the confirmation oversite committee.

Hawley says the govenror's office isn't hiding anything and is committed to open communication. She said there was no confusion among lottery staff about who was in charge, adding that lottery sales and other functions were performing quite well this year.

In fiscal year 2013, the lottery had ticket sales totaling $244,764,848. Of that, $74.5 million was transferred to the state. In addition, the lottery oversees the state-owned casinos, which generated an additional $79,381,565 for the state.


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