ST. PAUL, MN: Minnesota authorities are investigating whether criminal charges should be brought regarding the state lottery's dealings with a local PR and event-planning firm, Media Rare.
Questions of whether there were improprieties in the relationship surfaced last year in a report by a Minnesota legislative auditor.
The report noted that work done by Media Rare had not been put out for competitive bid. Media Rare oversaw the lottery's sponsorship of a fishing tournament, produced a weekly TV show, and ran a lottery promotional vehicle.
Jeff Denney, the current owner of Media Rare and the firm's former CFO, did not return calls seeking comment on what impact the investigation has had on the firm.
The former owner of Media Rare, Michael Priesnitz, 53, was found dead April 28 on the floor of his garage in International Falls, MN. Authorities have called his death an apparent suicide but local police are still awaiting autopsy results.
In January 2004, former lottery director George Anderson, a friend of Priesnitz, committed suicide in his home a day after state auditors spoke with him.
The state's department of public safety began looking into the relationship between Media Rare and the lottery after Anderson's death. It has turned over its findings to the Ramsey County Attorney, who is now considering whether criminal charges should be brought, according to Jack Rhodes, chief of staff for the county attorney.
Ramsey County, which includes the state capital of St. Paul, has jurisdiction because it is where the lottery is headquartered.
"It's too early to know whether [Priesnitz's death] is going to change anything or not," said Rhodes.
The county attorney's office "will review the results of the investigation and determine if any criminal charges are warranted. I just don't know what the timeline for that will be right now," he said.
The Minnesota Lottery stopped doing business with Media Rare in February 2004.
Media Rare then sued the ad agency through which it had subcontracted for the lottery business, seeking damages for the lost business.