Former Ohio Lottery Director Pat McDonald left a trail of inappropriate text messages in his wake after abruptly resigning from the Lottery Commission last month, according to an investigation detailed by the Columbus Dispatch.
McDonald tendered his resignation in a two-sentence email to governor Mike DeWine’s office on April 12. DeWine’s office soon announced that an outside firm would investigate potential “HR irregularities” at the Lottery.
The Ohio Lottery is a $4 billion operation that oversees the state’s lottery ticket sales, video lottery terminals (VLTs), seven racinos and sports betting kiosks.
Report: Pat McDonald sent inappropriate text messages
Soon after McDonald abruptly retired from the commission, citing health issues, DeWine’s office said there had been complaints regarding Lottery personnel.
The Columbus Dispatch this week obtained a copy of a report written by a Cleveland law firm that conducted an investigation into the matter.
According to the Dispatch, a Lottery employee complained to HR in late February about an unwanted hug and touching by McDonald. The employee said they believed the issue had been addressed after McDonald apologized. But in April the employee went back to HR to share more information.
The report describes McDonald’s further behavior as expressing “inappropriate fondness and innuendo.” McDonald commented on two employees’ appearances and sent late-night text messages to one employee frequently. In the texts, he called the employee “hot” and “a gift from God.” He also used heart and winking face emojis in addition to the eggplant emoji, which carries connotations of sexual anatomy.
Late-night texts among correspondence noted in investigation
A text message sent at nearly 2 a.m. on a Sunday in January said, “I drive you crazy but you will never have a boss nor dude that cares and loves you so much.”
The employee only occasionally texted McDonald, and never responded to the late night texts.
On another occasion, the employee threatened to quit when they confronted McDonald for taking photos of them without their knowledge.
McDonald was reportedly called to meet with DeWine chief of staff Stephanie McCloud and legal counsel Matthew Donahue on April 11. McDonald resigned the next day.
McDonald served as the executive director of the Ohio Lottery since 2019, but was with the Lottery Commission for 16 years. He first served on the board of directors from 2007 to 2019. Previously, McDonald directed the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.
New interim Lottery director named
The Ohio Lottery declined to comment on the situation, telling PlayOhio:
“We do not comment on personnel issues, but we want to assure our customers that the actions of the former director have no impact on the Lottery’s day to day operations or the integrity of our games.”
DeWine appointed Michelle Gillcrist as interim Lottery director. Gillcrist had been serving as the governor’s aerospace and defense liason and regional liason for Northeast Ohio. She has also worked as a district representative for DeWine when he was a U.S. senator and as managing attorney of DeWine’s northeast Ohio office.