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Buck Wood, a lawyer from Austin, Texas, bristles when he hears the White House describe Harriet Miers as the person that then-Gov. George W. Bush appointed to chair the Texas Lottery Commission in 1995 “when it needed cleaning up.” “There wasn’t anything to clean up — there weren’t any problems until Harriet began to run it,” says Wood, who sued the commission on behalf of its former executive director, Nora Linares, whom Miers helped terminate. “It was obvious that Harriet wanted to get rid of her from the beginning.” Wood says that the Texas Lottery, in its first few years, was “a phenomenal success,” and he attributes that success to the creativity and managerial know-how of Linares, an appointee of Gov. Ann Richards (D). After Bush became governor, “Karl Rove wanted to get rid of Nora as lottery director,” alleges Wood. “She was as close to John Sharp [then, the Democratic state comptroller who was angling to run for lieutenant governor] as Miers is to Bush.” The problem wasn’t Linares, says Wood; it was Gtech Holdings Inc., the company under contract to actually run the game. After its national sales manager was indicted for receiving kickbacks involving the New Jersey lottery, the indictment immediately cast shadows on every state that used Gtech, says Wood. “Gtech had put Linares’ boyfriend [Mike Moeller] on its payroll, even though she didn’t know about it,” claims Wood, who says the arrangement was then leaked to the media, which skewered Linares for her apparent conflict of interest. In November 1996, Miers asked U.S. attorneys in Austin and New Jersey to investigate allegations involving questions raised by the contract that Moeller (now Linares’ husband) won from Gtech. “I definitely think [Miers] is handling this in the best way possible,” Lottery Commission General Counsel Kimberly Kiplin told Texas Lawyer, an affiliate of Legal Times, in a 1996 article. “I think she has been open, I think she has been impartial, I think her goal has been to get to the bottom of this and basically to collect the facts and react on the facts as collected. It’s been a real joy working with Harriet.” That joy was not shared by Wood or his co-counsel, Charles Soechting, now chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, who both sued the Lottery Commission on behalf of Linares, after Miers and two other commissioners voted to terminate Linares during a January 1997 hearing. In her petition, says Wood, Linares alleged, among other things, that commissioners had violated her First Amendment rights and the Texas Open Meetings Law. She further alleged she was fired for political reasons. In a 2003 interview, Soechting reflected on the 1997 hearing that resulted in Linares’ termination. “It was the most piss-poor example of a fair hearing run by Harriet that I’ve ever seen,” said Soechting, a senior attorney with Houston’s O’Quinn Laminack & Pirtle. “Nora wanted to get out of there with some degree of dignity. And Miers didn’t let her.” Miers declined to comment in 2003 about the hearing. But in February 1997, in her capacity as lottery chair, she signed an “Agreement and Mutual Release” that settled all claims between Linares and the commission arising out of Linares’ employment. Although Linares didn’t get her job back, the release stated, “The termination of Ms. Linares, an at will employee, was not based upon any wrongdoing by her.” Soechting viewed the agreement as vindication of his client. “If Harriet Miers had any evidence of wrongdoing, she would not have signed the document.” The lottery’s troubles didn’t end with Linares’ departure. The commission’s hire of a new lottery executive director also resulted in the commission terminating him, again resulting in a lawsuit against Gtech, which alleged that Gtech had unduly influenced the commission to fire him. Yet the commission renewed its contract with Gtech, which continued to operate the lottery during Miers’ five-year tenure as chairwoman. Gtech spokesman Robert Vincent says, “In general, Miers was a professional and disciplined regulator and an aggressive advocate for the Texas Lottery Commission. Approximately five years ago, Gtech was re-organized and a new management team was installed. Many of the individuals involved with the interactions with the Texas Lottery during Harriet Miers’ tenure as chairwoman are no longer with the company.” Lottery revenues have declined dramatically since Linares was director. But Wood also blames the revenue decline on Miers and the manner in which she attempted to micromanage the commission. “Harriet is the kind of person who is intent on controlling everything around her,” Wood says. “She will be John Roberts’ worst nightmare.”
John Council and Mark Donald are reporters for Texas Lawyer , an ALM publication where a version of this article first appeared.

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