The former acting director of the Minnesota State Lottery was so drunk at conferences in Las Vegas, New York City, Miami and Indianapolis that she was suspended by Gov. Mark Dayton’s chief of staff, according to records released Wednesday by the lottery.
Johnene Canfield was eventually fired earlier this year and is now suing the state for discrimination, saying her gender and disability from alcohol dependency led to her dismissal.
She was terminated after a December 2014 incident in which she admitted to drinking while working from home before getting into a car crash. She was arrested for drunken driving and pleaded guilty in October.
The state personnel and investigative records, first reported by the Associated Press, revealed a pattern of intoxication at work-related conferences before a 2012 suspension. She was helped to her hotel room, and people feared for her safety on a number of occasions, according to the documents, sometimes heavily redacted.
The State Lottery declined to comment because of the ongoing litigation.
Canfield had been a longtime State Lottery employee, rising through the ranks after being hired in 1989 to become acting director. Beginning as early as 2008, however, co-workers witnessed her intoxicated at out-of-state receptions and conferences.
The 2012 suspension letter from then-chief of staff and current Lt. Gov. Tina Smith says, “Your misconduct has created public embarrassment for the Minnesota Lottery.” Smith gave Canfield a two-week suspension and barred her from drinking at or before any and all work-related functions, including conferences and events.
Canfield says in her legal filing that State Lottery Director Ed Van Petten, who was appointed just days after Canfield’s suspension, was aware of her alcohol problem.
Canfield’s attorney Kevin Beck told the AP the lottery had a duty to get her help. Instead, Beck said the current lottery chief invited Canfield to drink with him at least a half-dozen times.
“They put her on notice, then her boss drank with her and didn’t terminate or discipline her,” Beck said.
All the while, she continued to receive positive performance evaluations from Van Petten.
Canfield acknowledges in the investigative report that she began drinking at her home, around the time of a 2 p.m. work conference call in December 2014, the same day she was later in the car wreck.
Canfield also claims gender discrimination, charging that two men in the office avoided firing despite transgressions, and also that she was paid less while carrying a heavier workload.
According to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, 16 Minnesotans have made claims of discrimination on the basis of disability from chemical dependency since January 2011.
The first court hearing in the civil case is Dec. 23. Canfield has asked to be reinstated in her old job, where her salary was $109,285.