SALEM — A former Oregon Lottery official is suing the lottery commission and the lottery’s director and CFO, claiming they retaliated against him for raising the alarm about management issues at the agency.
Trinh Tran, a lawyer who worked as a contracts and procurement officer for the agency, filed suit against the lottery commission, director Barry Pack and CFO Kathy Ortega in Multnomah County Circuit Court April 17 seeking $2.75 million.
Tran alleges Pack retaliated against him for reporting management issues to the lottery commission, another lottery employee and to governor’s staff; and that lottery officials violated his privacy when they initiated an investigation of him by the state’s attorney general.
Tran also claims Ortega, who was also Tran’s supervisor, violated his Fourth Amendment rights by accessing his work computer and emails.
According to the lawsuit, Tran first voiced concerns about “mismanagement and abuse of authority” to a lottery commissioner, Liz Carle, in March 2016, and then the next month, to two employees at the lottery including his direct supervisor. He also mentioned his concerns to Heidi Moawad, Gov. Kate Brown’s lottery adviser.
In what the lawsuit characterizes as “apparent retaliation” against two commissioners who inquired about management issues at the agency, then-Director Jack Roberts drafted, but did not submit, a Bureau of Labor and Industries complaint against them, and placed on administrative leave another employee who reported management problems to the Governor’s Office.
Roberts was removed from his position in late April of 2016, and Barry Pack was named acting director. Pack announced a personnel investigation by the state Department of Justice against the deputy director, Roland Iparraguirre, and started an investigation against the two commissioners that was based on Roberts’ draft BOLI complaint.
Those two commissioners, Mary Wheat and Liz Carle, resigned from the commission after the lottery announced the allegations against them were “baseless.”
The lawsuit alleges Pack falsely claimed Tran’s employees complained about him, and that Pack started a DOJ investigation of Tran, which found “no evidence of inappropriate conduct or violations of policy,” the lawsuit states.
After DOJ concluded its investigation, the lawsuit claims, Pack and Ortega reduced Tran’s responsibilities, excluded him from meetings, and wrote a work plan that the lawsuit characterized as a step in the disciplinary process and a warning of possible dismissal.
Tran resigned from the lottery in October.
The lawsuit also claims Brown and her office “either authorized or were aware of and acquiesced in defendant Pack’s ... retaliatory actions” against Tran and other employees who blew the whistle.
A spokeswoman for the lottery declined Wednesday to comment on the lawsuit.