DeFronzo off Connecticut Lottery board
HARTFORD — With an exceptionally quiet departure, Donald DeFronzo, who was appointed chairman of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation’s board of directors in 2017, has retired from the board.
DeFronzo announced his retirement at a Nov. 15 board meeting, board minutes show. No other public announcement was made by the Lottery at DeFronzo’s request, said Tara Chozet, a Lottery spokeswomn.
Multiple lawmakers and public officials who know DeFronzo and are involved with the Lottery were unaware of the 70-year-old’s departure until Hearst Connecticut Media told them Thursday afternoon.
“I resigned in November and submitted a letter to the governor’s office and to the administration at the Lottery,” DeFronzo said Thursday. “When Gov. Malloy asked me to take over as chairman I basically made a one-year commitment.”
The Lottery, a quasi-public agency, had its first board meeting without DeFronzo on Thursday. The board is chaired on an interim basis by Patrick Birney, who was vice chairman, said Chozet. Gov. Ned Lamont is charged with appointing a new chairman.
The news is the latest in a series of personnel changes at the Lottery since 2015. DeFronzo said Malloy tasked him finding new leadership for the quasi-public agency, while and refocus on generating revenue and “functioning professionally.”
A president and CEO, Gregory Smith was hired in July 2018. DeFronzo said by November, he felt he had helped Smith settle in and now he could depart.
The Lottery by no means has escaped the distrust of some legislators, however.
The Lottery has been hit by three scandals since 2015, the most recent a Super Drawing on Jan. 1, 2018 that wrongly excluded 100,000 ticket buyers from the game, cost the state nearly $1 million and ended with several Lottery employees placed on administrative leave.
State auditors reviewed many areas of Lottery operations and did not find serious concerns, they outlined in their Nov. 2 report.
They in particular studied whether a Lottery employee, Alfred DuPuis, was guilty of “gross neglect in the execution of his duties” regarding his role in the Super Drawing and whether the employee was retaliated against by Lottery officials for his involvement in the drawing and a previous scandal, 5 Card Cash.
The auditors concluded “the charge of gross neglect and the associated administrative leave with pay could have resulted from arbitrary or retaliatory motives.” They noted no other Lottery employee has ever been charged with gross neglect, and no clear justification was given by the Lottery.
DuPuis has filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. The auditors said that body should make a final determination about the gross neglect charge and possible retaliation.
The auditors noted a strained relationship between the Lottery and legislators and DCP. Fasano echoed that observation Thursday, after he learned of DeFronzo’s departure from the Lottery from Hearst Connecticut Media.
“I think he was way off base on this Lottery issue,” said Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, a longtime critic of the agency. “I think he showed a demeanor that was really not appropriate and really not at all in the best interest of a Lottery commissioner. I was surprised because generally he was a workable, nice guy that you could talk to and come to an accord. I would think with his many years of service, he would have respect for the legislature.”
DeFronzo said Thursday that he always complied with the Legislature’s requests for information, lawmakers just always didn’t always like his decisions.
“I thought that we provided an extraordinary level of openness and transparency,” said DeFronzo. “I don’t think Sen. Fasano agreed with some of the decisions we made. I think that’s the bigger problem.”
DeFronzo is a former Democratic state senator from New Britain and former commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services.
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