ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A former high-ranking Minnesota Lottery official suing over her termination had the attention of Gov. Mark Dayton’s office in 2012 for alcohol-related misconduct that “created public embarrassment” for the agency, newly released documents show.
Investigative reports and other data released to The Associated Press under an August records request detail infractions by Johnene Canfield, including several instances of public intoxication while she served as acting lottery director. Canfield was assistant director when she was fired in May from the $116,000-a-year job.READ MORE: A Closer Look At Peter Cahill, The Judge Presiding Over Derek Chauvin's Trial
Canfield’s attorney, Kevin Beck, said Wednesday that his client doesn’t dispute the accounts but argues that the lottery had a duty to get her dependency help. Instead, Beck said the current lottery chief invited Canfield to drink with him at least a half-dozen times despite her history.
“The paper says one thing, the actions say another,” Beck said. “They put her on notice then her boss drank with her and didn’t terminate or discipline her.”
Canfield, 47, was put on leave and ultimately fired following a daytime drunken-driving crash last December that occurred within 30 minutes of participating in a conference call about a failed lottery game. Lottery executive director Ed Van Petten sent Canfield a text message during the call saying she was “sounding a little off,” an investigative report said. The report, completed in April, said Canfield told state investigators she had consumed vodka and soda while working from home prior to the call.
In 2012, Canfield served a 10-day suspension following a separate investigation that determined she drank to excess at multiple out-of-state conferences while interim director and often had to be escorted back to her hotel rooms by Minnesota colleagues, vendors or lottery executives from other states.
That discipline was handed down by Tina Smith, who was then Dayton’s chief of staff and is the current lieutenant governor. In a sternly worded letter, Smith admonished Canfield for violating state policies and told her, “your misconduct has created public embarrassment for the Minnesota Lottery.”READ MORE: Protesters March Through Downtown Minneapolis On Eve Of Chauvin Trial
Smith added, “You are prohibited from consuming alcohol at, or before work or any work-related conferences or events.” She warned that future violations could lead to dismissal.
Six days after notifying Canfield of her suspension, Dayton’s office announced the hire of Van Petten, who had held a similar lottery post in Kansas. Van Petten told investigators that in ensuing years he had twice confronted Canfield about performing work activities while under the influence of alcohol. Beck said those interactions weren’t documented.
In her lawsuit filed in October, Canfield argues that she received mixed messages from her superiors about alcohol use and had been “condoned and encouraged” by Van Petten to drink with him when they traveled together to conferences in recent years. She claims she was subjected to gender discrimination and that the lottery should have treated her alcoholism as a protected disability. Her lawsuit seeks damages and possible reinstatement.
In their own filing, lawyers for the lottery dispute that Canfield was discriminated against and that Van Petten delivered inconsistent messages. Van Petten has declined to comment, citing the pending case.
The first court hearing in the lawsuit is set for Dec. 23.MORE NEWS: Jury Consultant: Picking Jurors In Derek Chauvin Trial Will Be 'Herculean Task'
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