Former Arizona Lottery Director Tony Bouie said on Tuesday that he feels vindicated following a letter from the state Attorney General's Office clearing him of criminal charges related to his old job.
Troubles related to Bouie's one year in the post aren't over yet, though. Last week, two women who held high-ranking positions at the lottery filed a complaint in federal court against Bouie, alleging they were fired last year owing to sexual discrimination, retaliation, and to make way for Bouie's friends.
Bouie is a businessman and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back who had no previous experience in government work when Governor Doug Ducey appointed him in January 2015 to run the state's lottery. Ducey let him take a salary of $115,700 a year, $5,000 more than the previous director had been paid.
Bouie resigned early this year, two days after New Times published a January 11 story about several misdeeds he'd allegedly committed, including using his state-issued Chevrolet Impala to transport his children, firing lottery personnel and replacing them with his friends, and taking freebies from companies that dealt with the lottery. The story stemmed from an anonymous letter sent to New Times outlining the purported misdeeds.
In an interview before the article appeared, Bouie admitted he'd violated Arizona's strict vehicle-use law for state employees. Follow-up stories included records that detailed his use of stadium box seats for family and friends.
As it turned out, New Times had only shed a public spotlight on Bouie, while behind the scenes his job had been in jeopardy owing to scrutiny by a powerful state senator, District 20 Republican Kimberly Yee, who had held up his confirmation for a year.
The same week he resigned, Bouie had been scheduled to meet with Yee over concerns she had about him. Yee told New Times that Bouie's employment record and bankruptcy history were a "red flag" that reflected on his ability to lead a multimillion-dollar state agency, and that she wanted to probe Bouie's expenses at the lottery office.
A few weeks later, the Attorney General's Office announced that it was investigating Bouie — but for what, the office wouldn't say.
Now Bouie has made public a letter from the AG's office stating that the investigation is closed and no charges will be filed. The letter is dated June 6.
"Please be advised that our office has completed its review of allegations relating to misuse of a state vehicle, cronyism, and bid rigging during your tenure as the Director for the Arizona State Lottery," reads the June 6 letter, which is addressed to Bouie and signed by Robert Eckert, the office's special agent supervisor. "The results of our inquiry revealed a lack of clear facts and/or evidence that supported criminal conduct or warranted further investigation. Therefore, this matter is closed."
"This is unequivocal proof that I did nothing wrong in my time as the lottery director," Bouie told New Times on Tuesday. "I am happy with the attorney general's complete investigation, which had cleared my name."
Later, Bouie sent New Times an e-mail in which he added, "The only mistake I made was to try and make Government more efficient. Entrenched interests will always fight to the end when you take money out of their pockets and put it back in the hands of the taxpayer. The financial results of the Lottery over my tenure show, without a doubt, my decisions where in the best interest of the taxpayer."
Asked what he's doing now, Bouie demurred.
"When I am ready to give the full details about the Lottery, I will reconnect," he said.
Until then, one thing that will keep him busy is the legal challenge by former lottery employees.
In a federal complaint filed in Arizona U.S. District Court on July 7, Karen Bach and Jessica Reimann describe Bouie as a hostile and intimidating boss who removed them from their jobs and replaced them with his relatively unqualified buddies. The plaintiffs are represented by Phoenix labor lawyers Tod and Bradley Schleier.
With the filing of the lawsuit, some loose ends about the director can be filled in.
As New Times reported on January 11, the anonymous letter alleged that Bouie had replaced two of the employees he'd fired with Michael Schiefelbein, a former baseball player for the University of Arizona, Bouie's alma mater; and Thomas Malone, a former co-worker with Bouie at Solavei, a now-defunct multilevel marketing firm.
When Bouie took over the top post at the lottery, Reimann was director of marketing and advertising, Bach director of products and communication. Both women had been employed at the agency for a few years; both positions reported directly to the director.
Bach and Reimann began to resent the change in leadership almost immediately.
"Defendant Bouie's management style was aggressive, disruptive, and hostile," the complaint alleges.
According to the suit, Bouie seemed to imply that staffers were receiving kickbacks, and he belittled what Reimann and Bach saw as the accomplishments of the previous regime, which had been led by former state lawmaker Jeff Hatch-Miller.
Bouie soon took away Bach's budget and her legislative duties and gave them to another employee, Brian Townsend, who he named deputy director — a new position that might not have gone through the state's hiring process, the complaint alleges.
Bach did some checking on the internet and found that Townsend, a former senior policy advisor to Republicans at the state House of Representatives, had been accused by a woman of stalking and had been prohibited from carrying firearms.
Bach was fired on March 12, 2015, sent on her way, ironically, with a letter of recommendation from Bouie praising her work at the lottery. She would later learn that Schiefelbein was hired to do one-third of her original job, for higher pay.
Reimann, meanwhile, alleges that Bouie often criticized the retailers who partnered with the lottery office to sell tickets, at one point asserting loudly in front of women that if the agency could highlight the fact that the state of Arizona was behind it, the Lottery "wouldn't have to bend over and take it from our retailers anymore."
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According to the complaint, after Reimann told a state investigator that Bouie had been given two jackets — one for him, the other for his wife — by the Arizona Coyotes hockey team, Bouie retaliated by firing her. She found out he hired Malone, and that Malone and Townsend were performing her old duties.
The women allege one count of sexual discrimination and one count of retaliating against Reimann's First Amendment right to free speech. Claiming they've suffered from loss of wages, mental distress, embarrassment, and humiliation, they seek compensatory and punitive damages.
Yee, who spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 18, declined to comment about Bouie. But she did address it in a July 5 article about "influential women" that was published on the Washington, D.C., news site Roll Call, telling the site that she'd complained to the governor's office about Bouie and nixed his appointment.
"You have given me a person with a questionable financial background, no government experience, no administrative experience," she recounted having told Ducey's office.