The chairwoman of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee said Monday night that she plans to speak out against Gov. Larry Hogan’s pick to head the state lottery agency.
Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore City, made her comments following a Senate Executive Nominations Committee vote to recommend Gordon Medenica to the full Senate for confirmation — a vote that is expected to happen on Friday. Conway said she believes Medenica was not truthful with her when he appeared before the panel on Jan. 30.
“It’s basically predicated on the responses he gave when I questioned him here,” Conway said. “It’s based on the responses he gave here that’s insulting to me for him to sit here and think we don’t know or will not know what actually transpired. It’s more of an integrity issue. I mean, the man appears to be very qualified, no doubt. But it’s more than just qualifications if you think he can come before the Senate panel and not tell the truth.”
Of concern to Conway was Medenica’s answers regarding a procurement to overhaul and modernize state lottery operations statewide. The senator questions Medenica on both minority participation and what is known as liquidated damages — penalties for shortfalls in service on portions of the contract.
Medenica was appointed by Hogan in 2015. The same Senate committee last year declined to take up his nomination, and the governor was required to re-appoint and resubmit Medenica to the committee for this session.
Since then, Medenica’s nomination has been on hold at the request of Conway.
Monday night, Conway was the only senator to speak for or against the appointment.
“As my former senator and mentor Sen. Clarence Blount said, here, I know which way this one is going, OK?” Conway said to the committee.
Last week, a number of members of the committee, including prominent Democrats, agreed to delay the vote to allow Conway to return after being ill but said they would likely vote to recommend Medenica.
Conway was the only member of the committee Monday to vote against the appointment during a voice vote.
Following the vote, Conway could be heard telling another senator that she believed Medenica lied during his testimony. When asked about it by reporters, Conway declined to use the word.
“I think he didn’t tell the whole truth. No he did not,” Conway said. “He said liquidated damages for all the vendors are the same, and obviously liquidated damages are public record and they are not the same.
“He said that all of them met the same threshold, but some of them were more than others, they were not the same,” Conway said. “The participation levels were not the same. If you meet the threshold — that’s not my question to you. Did any one of them have more than the others, and he said they were all the same.”
Medenica, speaking on the issue of liquidated damages, did not give specific information or amounts, saying each of the three bidders labeled the information as proprietary.
“There’s essentially no difference between the companies regarding their level of liquidated damages,” Medenica said.
Initially, the lottery bid out the contract calling for 15 percent minority participation — the same level as the current contract — but later increased that level to 20 percent and extended the deadline for responding.
Medenica, in response to Conway’s questions in January, did tell the senator that the minority participation was the same for each of the three bidders but offered some additional elaboration.
“All bidders have to meet that 20 percent goal. All did and all moved forward,” Medenica said, calling the minority participation requirement a “pass-fail” requirement.
Conway noted during the exchange that one of the bidders — Gaming Innovations — offered a “much higher” level of minority participation.
“Maryland law doesn’t provide any, if you will, extra credit for that,” Medenica said. “What Maryland procurement law allows for is the meeting of the base goal. Beyond that there is no consideration for overachievement, if you will.”
It’s not clear how much support Conway will have in opposing Medenica on the floor on Friday.
Sen. C. Anthony Muse told The Associated Press that he expected Medenica’s appointment will become “a real problem” on the Senate floor.
“We’re going to have a strong floor fight on this,” Muse, D-Prince George’s, said Friday.
Conway was more cautious in her assessment when asked if there would be a floor fight.
“I’m going to say my piece and move on,” Conway said.