Arizona Lottery Director Tony Bouie resigned two days after a New Times article covered accusations against him that were raised in a whistle-blower's letter.
The article about his illegal use of a state vehicle and other alleged improprieties apparently spurred Ducey to act. But as it turns out, the director's upcoming, belated confirmation already was on the rocks because of concerns by a powerful state senator.
In an exclusive interview with New Times on Friday, Bouie, 43, a businessman and former NFL player, admitted transporting his children in the Chevrolet Impala he'd assigned to himself, in violation of a state law that specifically bans family members.
The law also bans use of state vehicles for driving to and from home without prior approval, personal convenience, transportation of friends and use of the vehicle to transport anyone "not essential to accomplishing the purpose for which the vehicle is dispatched."
Bouie said he'd been taking some of his four children, including his 2-year-old and 5-year-old, to Lottery events in the vehicle to broaden their horizons but that it was "absolutely not true I'm using it for personal use."
Ducey approved an annual salary $115,700 for Bouie, which was about $5,000 more than the previous director made.
The anonymous whistle-blower, who claims to be an employee of the Lottery, went into detail on a wide range of other alleged abuses, including bad management, hiring buddies to key positions, and bid-rigging.
"In discussing these recent issues with Director Bouie, the director and the governor agreed [the controversy detailed in New Times] will be a real distraction," says Daniel Scarpinato, Governor Doug Ducey's spokesman. "So, in the best interest of the state, Director Bouie has stepped down."
For legal reasons, Scarpinato says, he can't elaborate on the allegations against Bouie. Kevin Donellan, a deputy director at the agency, was made acting director until another nominee can be found.
Bouie's resignation came the day before he was supposed to meet with Republican state Senator Kimberly Yee about his upcoming confirmation hearing, which was supposed to take place near the end of this month. Ducey announced Bouie's appointment on January 30, 2015, but he was never confirmed. State agency directors can serve for only one year without being confirmed by the Arizona Senate, and his time was running short.
Yee, chairman of the Arizona Senate Commerce and Workforce Development Committee, says she raised questions about Bouie from the beginning, when she saw on in his nomination paperwork that he'd once declared bankruptcy. She says she considered that a significant "red flag," considering that the Lottery handles vast amounts of money.
His work experience didn't impress her, either. He'd played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for four years and been involved in some businesses, though none of them "sizable," according to Yee.
"His last job was as a substitute teacher," Yee says.
She held off on the confirmation to let him serve a sort of "performance review," she says.
Yee says what she saw and heard since then about Bouie didn't bode well.
Just weeks after Bouie began work last year, representatives of the Lottery requested an amendment to a bill that would have allowed the agency to contract with companies for marketing and other work without going through the typical public bid process. Without transparency in the process, questionable contracts and favoritism would be more likely to occur, Yee says. The amendment wasn't approved.
Over recent months, Yee received numerous calls from people lobbying her to confirm Bouie. He never called himself, but his friends called. "Friends of the Governor's Office" and state party officials called. It was a "lineup of individuals." She realized that Bouie was telling nearly everyone he met to call her.
"That was unique," she says.
Meanwhile, she was able to confirm that the Lottery had purchased a loft or field box suite at University of Phoenix stadium and a tent at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Members of the state Lottery Commission were unaware of the expenses, she says.
Among the callers were political activists from Arizona's Legislative District Six, where Bouie tried his unsuccessful run for the Legislature in 2008. They were angry with him because during his campaign, Bouie, who is black, "was calling those who didn't support his candidacy white supremacists," she says.
Yee hinted that she may continue to probe the former director's expenses.
"I still have concerns about . . . what expenses were put forward without budget approval," she says.
Bouie told New Times on Friday that everything but the part about his vehicle use was "a bunch of innuendo and lies." Yet as was reported, some of the allegations — such as one about hiring buddies to key positions — are at least partially accurate.
Other allegations will require more investigation. Bouie denied taking freebies, but details on the stadium suite — and who sat there — have yet to come out. He also denied remodeling his office, saying he'd only purchased a new desk and some other furniture.
The use of state vehicles in Arizona became a hot topic just last week when the Arizona Capitol Times reported that at the Arizona House of Representatives, "a handful of lawmakers and top staffers have driven tens of thousands of miles in the last few months" at taxpayer expense, questioning whether the use violated the law and vehicle fleet rules.
After publication of Monday's article about Bouie, one reader claimed that Bouie had deleted pictures of his children at Lottery events from his Instagram account. Indeed, several tweets that potentially contained images of his improper use of the vehicle now have dead links, such as one that read, "going to work with daddy."
New Times has several pending requests for public records about Bouie with the Lottery, including e-mails and other documents related to the allegations.
The Arizona Republic obtained a letter verifying Bouie's verbal resignation.
Bouie sent an e-mail to New Times Thursday evening expressing pride over his time in the position and touting the agency's "increase in sales and net profits for our beneficiaries."
He says he "followed the rules that I was trained on."
Then he adds mysteriously, "There is is much more to this story than is being told."
That's probably true, but it's unclear whether the public will ever find out just how much more, especially as it relates to Bouie's connections to Ducey's office.
At the meeting with Yee that Bouie canceled on Thursday, the state senator would have determined whether to move forward with a confirmation hearing. Most likely, she would have sent Bouie's nomination packet back to Ducey to let him know she didn't think he was qualified and that no hearing should occur.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Ducey, in theory, could have asked for the hearing anyway.
Yee believes that if a public confirmation hearing had been held, "there would have been a lot of people testifying."
That could have been an embarrassing show for Bouie — and for Ducey.