Cease and Desist Letter Received from Johnson Trent - Attorneys At Law - Houston
RE: My May 30, 2012 story about Kelly Cripe, Texas Lottery Media Director
On Sept 28, 2012, I received a Cease and Desist letter from what appears to be Kelly Cripes attorney (Lori Hood). The letter was sent certified 3 times plus they sent a copy by email. Now I use the word "appears" because I never confirmed the law firm actually sent me the letter. Even though the letter, Lori Hood, demanded that I ... 1) respond immediately (which I'm doing now); 2) immediately remove the defamatory statements from my web site (haven't removed anything from my site); and 3), provide in writing a statement to Ms. Cripe apologizing for false statements (didn't send an apology as there were no false statements).
If you will remember, on May 30, 2012, I posted my findings regarding Kelly Cripes Texas Lottery employment application. (This link takes you to the story that the Cease and Desist letter is referencing) Kelly was hired as the Media Director and began her job in Jan 2012. In my posting, I explained my reasons for investigating her which was - a couple of months after her arrival, a vital element of information that I needed to continue my extensive reporting was not coming in in the same manner as it had been. Not receiving this information had become a real problem for me.
After multiple complaints to Gary Grief failed to change or even impact the situation, I then set out to find out how could a brand new employee take it upon herself to ignore Commissioners orders? How could the Texas Lottery refuse to give me information that I had been getting daily since 2000? Who was this girl? I wanted to know WHY was I cut off? Just WHO was she??? I started by reviewing her employment application which resulted in the Cease and Desist letter.
Responding to Kelly attorney's letter - in my opinion - exposes questionable and unacceptable
actions by state employees ... you be the judge ...
Below I'm taking excerpts from Kelly's attorneys letter and responding.
If you want to read the letter, a link can be found at the bottom of this page.
Excerpt 1 - From Kelly's Attorney's Letter
Signed by Lori Hood
- 1 of 4 Responses To Excerpt 1 -
So one of the things you are accusing me of in this paragraph is making
"defamatory accusations in an effort to
malign her character."
This statement is extremely broad and without merit.
Let me show
you a real example of "an effort to
& defamatory accusations"
I'll use an example of an assignment Gary Grief bestowed
upon Ms Cripe in April 2012.
In order to understand the example, you need to understand the job duties of three
employees; you need to meet
Senator JOHN Whitmire;
Councilwoman Jolanda Jones and finally, you need to understand
the roll of the Sunset Commission.
First is Gary Grief. Gary is the Executive Director - he's the big boss -
the leader of the pact at the Texas Lottery. He answers to the 3 Commissioners.
The next person you need to know is Nelda Trevino. Nelda is the Director of
the Governmental Affairs Division. Her role at the Texas Lottery is that she is the
contact person for legislators or anyone in government. If you call your legislator,
he in turn will call Nelda. Nelda's job is to know everybody at the Capitol. She's
been employed at the Lottery Commission for a very long time - at least as
I've been around.
She is extremely well known and respected
in Austin and appears to be a genuinely very nice person.
Then there's Kelly Cripe who became Media Relations Director in Jan 2012.
Her job includes handling the press, issuing press releases, co-ordinates interviews,
does interviews (though I've never seen her on TV) -
all aspects of dealing
with the Media - TV, Radio, Newspapers, etc. She's the official Texas Lottery
spokesperson. When hired,
she had no lottery experience and was from Houston.
Keep in mind, Kelly was a brand new employee
when she got this "special" assignment.
Senator John Whitmire is from Houston and is one of five Senators
appointed to the Sunset Commission. He was also a political contributor
to Jolanda Jones - a Houston Councilwoman - with whom Kelly Cripe
worked prior to being hired at the Texas Lottery.
The Sunset Commission is THE agency who reviews all state
agencies and advises the Legislature if changes are needed,
if the agency should remain in tact or if the agency should be shut down.
The Texas Lottery has had more than its share of "Sunset Reviews"
in the past 10 years and has just gone through another one.
Sunset Reviews are nightmares for State Agencies.
Ex-Councilwoman Jolanda Jones - Houston City Council. Kelly Cripe
was Ms. Jones spokesperson but Ms Jones lost the election in a runoff
election held in Dec 2011 amid bad press. Due to the bad press, it
should not have been a surprise to anyone that Ms. Jones lost the election.
Except for maybe the fact that Ms Jones raised $113K in 6 months
which was far more than all the announced challengers combined.
But she still lost the election.
FYI - On Oct 24, 2011, Ms Cripe stated on her state application
that her reasons
for leaving Cripe Communications - a Consultant
business was ... "pursue opportunity to make long-term
commitment with an organization." I can't help but wonder - did
Ms Jones need a "spokesperson" after she lost the election?
(If you want to know more about Ms Jones, do a Google search.)
Now comes Gary Grief's April 7th assignment to Kelly Cripe
and what one can safely assume was the obvious motive -
Assignment ... The Motive:
On March 22, 2012, I submitted Sunset recommendations.
certain my recommendations angered Gary Grief and the
Commissioners - I can say this because IF I had been in their
reading what I recommended would have
angered me too.
The Sunset Hearing
was scheduled for April 10th. The purpose of the hearing
was to discuss a new bill to submit to the legislature this session - the session
started Jan 2013.
Senator John Whitmire is on the Sunset Commission with
imput on Lottery legislation.
Email 1 - Kelly's Assignment - Gary Grief to Kelly Cripe -
Notice that Gary says, "explain to Whitmire who Dawn Nettles is."
Gee Gary, who is Dawn Nettles?
How can Kelly tell him [the Senator]
who I am, she's never met me. Are you interfering with the rights of
the public to play a roll in the legislative process? Are you asking
Kelly to ask/instruct Senator Whitmire to forgo his fiduciary duties
and not consider all viewpoints? Is Gary using Kelly to lobby for him?
Isn't this Nelda's job?
Notice Gary tells Kelly to "be nice" in dealing with the CFO!
Email 2 - Kelly Cripe to Gary Grief
WOW - would you look at Kelly's response! She says "JOHN" - she calls
by his first name??? Obviously Kelly knows him personally.
And Gary is taking advantage of this relationship - whatever the relationship is.
Just how close are they? Are they associates from Kelly's job with
Councilwoman Jones ... is Kelly friends with the Senator's daughters?
Did Senator Whitmire put in a good word for Kelly when
she applied for the job at the Texas Lottery? I don't know the
answer to any of these questions but they are legitimate questions.
Two more things about this message that is disturbing
1) Gary is stepping on Nelda's toes and Kelly knows it. 2) Kelly's attorney said
she was a "professional" yet the writing of this message is like that of
my 17 year old granddaughter - I'm afraid this is not indicative of a person
who earns over $100K per year and is in charge of media!
Email 3 - Gary to Kelly with regard to her request to keep Nelda out of the picture
Notice that Gary had a "plan" and it was discussed with Nelda on Thursday,
April 5th. What was the plan? The TLC did NOT know I was coming in for the
April 10 hearing as you will see in another series of emails that I plan
to show you under another topic.
I wonder, when Kelly met with Senator Whitmire, did she tell him that Gary "had" a
plan and that Gary sent her specifically to explain who I was? Did Senator Whitmire
wonder where Nelda was? Did Senator Whitmire ever read my Sunset recommendations.
Did Senator Whitmire believe whatever Kelly told him about me?
I'll never know what Kelly told Senator Whitmire because it appears they are
personal friends and I'm fairly certain he'll never tell. I don't really expect him to.
Question for my readers ...
Having read the three emails, would you agree that if I ever accused
and Gary Grief of making 1) defamatory statements; 2) false allegations;
3) maligning my character; 4) maliciously made insinuations or 5) libelous statements -
(citing the language used in the letter I received) that they would at least know
why I made the accusations? Am I being specific? And not "broad" like the
letter from Johnson Trent, Attorney's At Law.
2 of 4 Responses To Excerpt 1 - Kelly's Attorney's Letter
With regards to "the claim that Ms Cripe is "refusing" to provide you with
information ... its not accurate and you know it."
Let "Email 1" & "Email 2" speak to my "claim"
Notice Kelly's 6 minute response time to Robyn -
is Kelly afraid Robyn might send the info to me?
Notice that Ms. Jurik tells Kelly that I called at 4 pm. Roll amounts
generally came to me between noon and 2 pm until Kelly came on board.
If the info was NOT sent to me, I'd send a reminder as anyone can forget
time to time. Staff would always reply until Kelly stopped them.
Also, notice the remark regarding the answering service. I never
could understand who was answering the phone later in the day.
The message below is a message to Kelly from the "call center."
I don't think staff knew there was someone else taking calls. OR
maybe just my calls were routed to a service. I've been calling
1993 and have never heard a service - it's always been voice mail..
Email 3 -
What happened to the voice mail? Why pay this expense?????
3 of 4 Responses To Excerpt 1
With regards to "false and defamatory accusations" ... my posting consists of pure
documented facts, questions and opinions which are 1st Amendment Rights.
It's not my fault Kelly submitted an application and a resume that became a
public record and was available for verifications and public scrutiny.
I did not misspell a word, give incorrect dates of employment
and make a claim of an award that is not supported by official records.
Last Response To Excerpt 1
With regards to "drama and sensationalistic material you need to sell subscriptions" ...
FYI ... there are NO subscriptions for visiting my web site - it's FREE. Which, by the way,
is the ONLY place where I publish my watchdog work. There was no profit from Kelly's story.
Excerpt 2 - Kelly Cripe's Legal Letter
Signed by Lori Hood
Response To Excerpt 2 - Kelly's Attorney's Letter
This remark is priceless - for a couple of reasons. First of all, Kelly refuses to return my
phone calls. She has no idea if I called her or not and in this case, it just so happens
that I did call her. I called her the same day I contacted her ex-employer and a
co-worker. Further ... her requirements for returning calls is that one has to tell
whoever answers the phone what they want - in this case, out of respect, I
would NOT - did NOT - specify my reason for calling.
Secondly, no reporter in the country calls an individual after a story is written
to ask them if the story was OK and if the story met their approval. If a news
story contains an error
or erroneous information, generally that person will call the
news outlet and let them know about it. Sometimes they'll provide the news outlet
that shows there was an error. Rarely do people contact attorney's prior
to contacting the news outlet first. In this case, Kelly never informed me that any
fact was reported incorrectly.
She sought legal help the minute she saw the
story. If Kelly can show me a fact error, I will be more than happy to correct it.
I would even apologize if I made a FACTUAL mistake.
Opinions and questions are not facts.
Excerpt 3 - Kelly's Attorney's Letter
Signed by Lori Hood
- Response To Excerpt 3 -
Out of kindness, I'll address this even though it's an inaccurate accusation ....
First of all, I didn't "fail to mention anything." When reporters do
they include whatever information they wish to include. The recipient
control over what a reporter is going to write about them.
In so far as she "proved to be a reliable source of information,"
Kelly has failed in that area as far as I'm concerned in her
position at the Texas Lottery.
Be that as it may, your
statement is incorrect as the information you
mention was clearly shown in the story. You'll find it under ...
"(A) "Awards" - Excerpts From Kelly Cripe Resume"
Awards & Honors Section.
Click here and scroll down the page to see it.
Excerpt 4 - Kelly's Attorney's Letter
Signed by Lori Hood
- Response To Excerpt 4 -
For the life of me, I absolutely do not know how you can say that I was
"motivated by retaliation." I would have to say that I was motivated to keep
my website current and she interfered and was harming the reputation of
lottoreport.com - a reputation I have built since 1992. She forced me to take
action by failing to provide me with the information I needed. In the end,
I published my findings which was not favorable for Kelly. Like I said, "facts
are facts, and I can't help what I found. Kelly did it herself."
As far as legalities as concerned, conceivably, I could accuse the Texas Lottery
of plagiarizing me. I was FIRST in posting most of the information that they post now.
i.e. ... scratch tickets remaining, sales & payouts, sales reports, jackpot estimation sheets,
pretest results, plus a number of other things.
Wait a minute, it just occurred to me - is this why she quit giving me my information?
She didn't want it posted on my site if it wasn't on the TLC site so she
purposely tried to stop me from obtaining the information?
Excerpt 5 - Kelly's Attorney's Letter
Signed by Lori Hood
- Response To Excerpt 5 -
You state, "Ms. Cripe is a respected and busy professional." ...
Clearly this is an opinion and you are certainly entitled to it. I do hope
that you will afford me the same entitlement as I do not consider Kelly
to be "professional." Here's why and again, I hope you
can respect my opinion ....
"Professionals" do not write like this - first, she calls me a "lunatic." Extremely
unprofessional. She later finds out that it was she who did not understand yet
I'm the "lunatic." Secondly, notice how freely she suggests going to Open Records
which requires at least 10 days for a response. More proof that she does
not provide information to me. And lastly, she does not consider me a
"media" yet she hires attorney's claiming I've harmed her!
"Professional?" First of all, why on earth would she expect these people to tell her
if the jackpot rolled? Does she think they are at her disposal whenever she wants?
The Executive Director? All she had to do is look at the website instead of pushing "send"
on her computer OR turn on the TV OR pick up a newspaper. The jackpot in question
was a BIG Mega Millions jackpot - on 3/27/12 it was a $363 million jackpot and it did
roll to $640 million. How can the Media Director of the Texas Lottery not know
if a $363 Million jackpot was hit or not 2 days after the draw?
The best description of this action is BLONDE!!!!!<grin>
Even though Kelly was being ugly to me again, I loved this email.
This is so very close to the truth that it hurts! Gary does have his ways!
Emails 4, 5, 6, 7
This series of emails were sent to the AG for an opinion - the TLC "redacted" info
But Jan 10, 2012 is when Kelly was trained/educated about me and what
the Media Dept. has done for "at least a decade."
This is how her education started ... Kelly sees this message ...
Kelly inquires ...
Mr. Elrod replys ... Please notice, the "decade" remark and "3 times per day" remark ...
Then Mr. Elrod re-clarifies ... Notice how he explains "considered media"
Inserted 4/22/13 - After this story was posted
Initially I failed to explain the "three times a day" remark above which is extremely important.
For at "least a decade," I received or called and obtained the following ...
Each morning, I received sales and payouts for the drawings held the night before.
Around 1 pm each day, I received sales and payouts for the Pick3 and Daily 4 DAY draws.
At the end of the day, I received up-coming sales so I could estimate jackpots.
I have not been able to obtain sales and payouts for the Day draws in
almost a year now as they refuse to give me the information. This now
includes the need for All or Nothing sales/payouts with 4 draws per day.
I run a lottery website and I have disseminated this information
as quickly as humanly possible since 1998 and 2000 respectively.
But now I can't obtain the information to post - information
that I should have access to immediately following a drawing.
Ms Hood, don't you ever tell me "and you know it"
insinuating Kelly IS providing me with sales and payout
when clearly she is not providing it as it was done
for at "least a decade."
- Requesting -
I still want someone to tell me how the Texas Lottery
can refuse to provide information when it is available.
This concludes my responses to Kelly's Cripes Cease and Desist
letter sent to me by Lori Hood with Johnson Trent, Attorney's At Law.