Tony Bouie, the former NFL player appointed by Governor Doug Ducey to run the Arizona Lottery, is making numerous changes to his agency that he thinks will be beneficial.
One of them is a new training program to make sure employees don't violate the law on using state vehicles — like he did.
Bouie, 43, is another interesting pick by Ducey to head a state agency. He has no public sector experience but has led a varied and successful career. He played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for four years following his college career at the University of Arizona and was an assistant football coach for the University of Akron in Ohio. He's also a businessman, inventor, and cancer survivor who obtained his MBA from Arizona State University.
In an interview with New Times, Bouie responded to an anonymous complaint letter — supposedly by a current Lottery employee — that contains various allegations of bad management and cronyism. The letter, dated December 22, was received by New Times last week and supposedly also was sent to the governor, attorney general, various state senators, and the Arizona Republic.
It's "absolutely not true I'm using it for personal use," Bouie said of the state vehicle he's used to transport his toddler and other kids.
The two-page letter alleges, primarily, that Bouie assigned himself a state vehicle — a Chevrolet Impala — and has been using it for personal reasons in violation of state law and policy. Specifically, he used it for such personal reasons as attending a doctor's appointment and "personal lunches," he takes it home over the weekends, and often is spotted with his kids in it, the letter says. The unidentified writer also claims Bouie wasn't using a car seat, as state law mandates for his youngest kids.
Bouie said he did, in fact, use the car on occasion to transport one or more of his four kids. But he downplayed the violation, saying it's "absolutely not true I'm using it for personal use."
He said the problem was that he wasn't supposed to have anyone in the car who wasn't a state employee, showing that he does, indeed, need that training. In fact, state law and fleet vehicle policy clearly prohibits the car from being used for:
* Driving to and from home, unless approved by the state Department of Administration. (Bouie didn't have approval.),
* Personal convenience,
* "Transportation of family members or friends, or any person not essential to accomplishing the purpose for which the vehicle is dispatched."
Bouie said he "may have" signed something agreeing he knew the rules before using the vehicle, but he's not sure. That's when his explanation took a turn for the weird:
He denied failing to use a child car seat as required by Arizona law. He said he and his wife have four children and the two youngest, ages 2 and 5, always were buckled properly into car seats when he had them in the state-issued Impala. Asked how using the car to transport a toddler and kindergarten-age kid wasn't "personal use," Bouie said he only took them to official lottery events. He wants to expose them to the intellectually stimulating situations that he didn't have the opportunity to attend when he was an impoverished child growing up in Louisiana, he said.
Bouie said he couldn't quantify how many times he's had the kids in the car in his first year on the job but that he understands the rules better now. Still, he's having a representative from the state Attorney General's Office come to the Lottery office sometime in the near future to train him and others on vehicle usage and other policies.
It's unclear whether he'll face any discipline over his vehicle violations. New Times contacted the state AG's Office to find out, but so far there has been no decision.
Bouie presumably can afford his own ride: He makes $115,700 annually, which is about $5,000 more than his predecessor, Jeff Hatch-Miller, who had served as director since 2009.
As for the rest of the anonymous letter, it's "just a bunch of innuendo and lies," Bouie said.
The letter alleges that Bouie has fired Lottery employees and installed his friends in some positions, including Mark Strickland, a former University of Arizona football player; Michael Schiefelbein, a former U of A baseball player; and Thomas Malone, a former co-worker with Bouie at Solavei, a now-defunct multi-level marketing mobile-phone service.
That part of the letter isn't exactly all lies, though: Strickland's now the Lottery's marketing and advertising manager, Schiefelbein's the director of products, and Malone's the creative services manager.
The letter also alleges that Bouie "was wined and dined by Scientific Games International (SGI) while he was at a conference in Dallas." Bouie says the conference was attended by every lottery director in the country and that he took no freebies.
Bouie allegedly remodeled his office recently, hiring "a design firm to develop a concept for the remodel." Bouie said the design firm was hired to remodel the lobby, not his office. He said he did have a new desk and some chairs ordered for his office to replace items "from the 1980s."
While the letter writer complains that Bouie is a "bully" to vendors and about his upcoming plan to outsource the Lottery's sales department, Bouie views his management efforts as forward-thinking and frugal. He outlined many of his new programs and actions in a December 20 op-ed in the Arizona Republic.
For 35 years, various marketing activities — like advertising — were managed by a marketing company that contracted with the Lottery. Riester, for example, held that contract for the past five years, Bouie said. Now, the overarching marketing management is handled in-house, and when work needs to be done, a competitive bid process helps save the state money, according to Bouie.
Nearly all advertising for the Lottery is now handled by in-state companies — before, only 35 percent of the advertising work was handled in-state, he said. It's also true that he's out-sourcing the sales force, who work with convenience stores and other retailers to sell lottery tickets. All but three of the 25-member sales force will have to re-apply for jobs with the private firm that eventually will be selected to do the work, he said. The Lottery agency will help them prepare their resumes and make sure they're up on their interviewing skills but won't guarantee them a job. Bouie believes most, if not all, will be hired.
According to the anonymous employee, morale at the agency is at a low point, and some employees are "quite upset" and fearful they'll be fired.
The changes "caused some people not to like me," he admitted.
Yet the sales force move alone will save the state $2.5 million annually, he said. And he emphasized that lottery ticket sales and revenue to the state from the sales have both increased substantially since he took the job.
The disgruntled anonymous employee "is taking the focus away from the good things we're trying to do," he griped.
This may be true, but with some of the letter writer's points proving correct, Bouie probably ought to pay extra attention at his upcoming policy-training meeting. He's been accused publicly of integrity problems previously: The conservative blog Seeing Red Arizona published an article last year claiming that Bouie lied about his conservative credentials during his 2010 run for the Arizona Legislature and has had previous financial problems.