Earlier last month, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Alva Vernon Johnson as the director of the California State Lottery. This appointment comes after former director Hugo Lopez stepped down a few days earlier amid investigations. Lopez held the position since 2015 and in his resignation letter he noted that he oversaw a period of growth at the Lottery, with annual revenues topping $7 billion. In August, anonymous employees sent a letter to then Governor Jerry Brown alleging misconduct among senior executives at sales conferences, which led the department to be under scrutiny from the Department of Justice and the State Controller’s Office. The letter focused on senior lottery staff misbehaving at a Southern California piano bar after a sales conference in 2016.
A State Controller’s Office audit determined that department officials inappropriately spent about $300,000 over four years on travel, accommodations, and food for sales conferences. According to a Governor’s Office news release, Alva Vernon Johnson lobbied for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians from 2016 to 2018, he also lobbied for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians from 2005 to 2015, and was a legislative liaison to the Lottery in 2001. The position requires Senate confirmation and it pays a salary of $180,000 a year. We will have to wait and see if the Senate will approve of Johnson’s appointment and if there will be further investigations into the California State Lottery.