Meetings & Information


Friday, December 27, 2013

Gaming panel’s staff has ties to casino hopefuls


THE DEALERS: Some of the staff of the Gaming Commission, including its
counsel, admin director and ombudsman, have ties to some of the developers
looking to be awarded licenses to build casinos here.
The Herald reviewed disclosures from the
to find that it's not just chairman Steve
Crosby who has ties with one of the casino suitors. Commissioner Bruce Stebbins
disclosed that he received campaign contributions from Springfield bigwigs Frank
Fitzgerald and Peter Picknelly when he was on the City Council. Both Picknelly
and Fitzgerald are now involved in developing a casino for
Ethics disclosures by Gaming Commission employees show an agency rife with potential conflicts that go far beyond the much-publicized ties of Chairman Stephen Crosby, with several staffers linked to people in the hunt for coveted gaming licenses.

The disclosures show the commission’s head lawyer, administrative director and ombudsman, as well as Commissioner Bruce Stebbins, have had business or social relationships with people involved with companies seeking licenses, a Herald review found.

“Circumstantially, it doesn’t look good, I’ll say that much,” said Boston College professor Richard McGowan, a gaming expert who advised City Hall in its now-defunct deal with Caesars and Suffolk Downs. Caesars was spiked after the commission flagged Caesars’ contracting of a company owned in part by a man with rumored Russian mob ties. “They knocked down Caesars from getting a license because they had some contact with a guy. You’re always going to have some kind of connections.”

Caesars has sued Crosby over his past partnership with Paul Lohnes, an owner of the site of a proposed Wynn casino in Everett. Crosby, who has also disclosed a college friendship with Suffolk Downs owner Joe O’Donnell, recused himself from a vote on Wynn’s land deal.

“The Commission strongly encourages all employees to use an overabundance of caution in filing ethics disclosures,” said commission spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll. “Our staff has been remarkably diligent in their efforts to demonstrate our strong commitment to integrity and transparency. As we soon progress from the licensing phase into the regulatory phase of our operations, the Commission will continue to apply those high standards and maintain strict adherence to our Enhanced Code of Ethics.”

Other commission employees with similar ties include:

•    Director of Administration Eileen Glovsky, who testified at the corruption trial of former probation chief Jack O’Brien that she managed a patronage hire list as deputy state treasurer. She divulged a 10-year relationship with a former treasury attorney who represents two license applicants, and that she and her husband once belonged to the same Belmont country club as O’Donnell, though she says she doesn’t believe she ever met him. In her May filing, she anticipated an event at which O’Donnell may greet her husband and wrote, “I wanted to make sure there was no misunderstanding about this.”

•     General Counsel Catherine Blue, who disclosed that her daughter formerly worked at the Mintz Levin law firm under Peter Biagetti, who represents Wynn. (Mintz Levin also represents the Boston Herald.) “I do not and will not discuss my daughter with Mr. Biagetti,” Blue wrote in a March disclosure. As of June, Blue’s daughter was in the running for a job at Morgan Brown & Joy, a firm hired by the commission.

• Commissioner Stebbins, who disclosed receiving campaign contributions as a Springfield city councilor from Frank Fitzgerald, an attorney for MGM’s Springfield casino bid, and Peter Picknelly, an affiliate of the group behind the casino. “I don’t see anything that would preclude me or require me to recuse myself,” Stebbins told the Herald.

•     Ombudsman John Ziemba, who previously worked for a law firm that represents the Massachusetts Performing Arts Council, which he noted could receive mitigation money under the gaming law’s “impacted live entertainment venue” provision.

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