The inside story of gaming agency hire
Emails indicate no “public relations hit” was foreseen
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission hired Carl Stanley McGee as its interim executive director on May 1. McGee, a Harvard Law School graduate, former Rhodes Scholar, and Gov. Deval Patrick’s point person in crafting casino legislation as assistant secretary for policy and planning, was seen as a perfect fit for the job. The only question mark was a 2007 arrest for allegedly sexually molesting a 15-year-old boy at a Florida resort.
|Stephen Crosby is the Chairman of the state Gaming Commission.|
Internal commission emails indicate officials believed any “public relations hit” from the 2007 arrest would be minimal because they believed McGee, who was never prosecuted and later resumed his job in the Patrick administration, had been accused of a crime he did not commit.
“Based on all I know, this can be managed, and . . . the risk to the agency is small relative to the benefit of hiring such a perfectly suited person for this slot,” wrote the commission’s outside public relations consultant, Karen Schwartzman, in an email to the commissioners on April 30.
Schwartzman added, “Bottom line: I believe that the media will mention [McGee’s Florida] history, but I also believe that I can appeal to their sense of fairness in making clear that Stan has already been though the ringer for a crime he didn’t commit and that it would be grossly unfair to put him through it again. I think it likely that the media will feel that they have to mention this, but I think it will be no more than a paragraph deep into an otherwise extremely favorable story about Stan and what it is that makes him a quality candidate for this job.”
Commissioner James McHugh, a retired appeals court judge, emailed Schwartzman, who was being paid $150 an hour by the commission, to ask whether McGee had entered into a civil settlement of any kind with the boy’s family.
“Stan did indicate to me that there was indeed a settlement, though he didn’t say, and I didn’t ask, how much money was paid,” Schwartzman responded. “He did say it was not a big number, but that it made him sick to pay anything at all. He said that he was advised by counsel that it was in his interest to make a settlement so as to end the nightmare as expeditiously as possible.”
In a recent interview, Schwartzman conceded that her advice to the commission was misguided because she did not have complete information. “I relied on what the governor’s office told us about the sexual allegations against Stan. They said they did their own review and let Stan come back to his state job after the charges were dropped,” she said. “A lot of new information came out later in the press that I was not aware of. If I knew all these things before, I likely would have done things differently.”
About 400 pages of internal emails involving McGee’s hiring were unearthed through a request under the state’s Public Records Law. Another 15 pages of documents were withheld in their entirety, with the commission claiming numerous exemptions from the law as well as attorney-client privilege. Taken together, the documents provide a behind-the-scenes look at how a reliance on incomplete information can embroil an agency in a vortex of controversy.
In an April 23 email, Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby asked Sydney Asbury, Patrick’s deputy chief of staff, whether the governor’s office would have any objection to the commission hiring McGee as an interim executive director.
Asbury raised no red flags, other than a concern that McGee might be too closely tied to the governor. “I don’t have any immediate concerns with Stan’s candidacy,” Asbury said in her email response.
A day after McGee’s hiring by the commission at the same $121,000 salary he was making as assistant secretary for policy and planning, the Boston Globe began preparing a story on him that focused on the incident in Florida. When the Globe contacted the commission for comment, Schwartzman responded: “For what it’s worth and off the record, I think the Globe‘s decision to report the family’s point of view or Wendy Murphy’s [the family’s lawyer] view — in the face of the facts which boil down to the lead prosecutor in [Florida] investigating thoroughly and finding no basis to bring charges — is both irresponsible journalism and grossly unfair to Stan McGee.”
But the Globe story, under the headline “Sex assault case haunts gambling director,” revealed information Schwartzman had not been aware of. The article reported that the boy’s parents had complained to the Florida governor’s office about the state attorney dropping the case. That complaint prompted a review of the situation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which recommended that the state attorney reconsider.
“I have been in law enforcement for over 34 years and investigated crimes against children exclusively for the past 25 years,” Inspector Terry Thomas of the state’s Crimes Against Children Unit wrote, according to the Globe. “And I have seen cases successfully prosecuted with less evidence than this case appears to have.”
Thomas recommended, according to the Globe, that the state attorney reconsider the prosecution of McGee for sexual battery and add in the offense of lewd and lascivious behavior. The state attorney declined.
Kathleen Norbut, the former president of United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts, complained in a May 3 email to Crosby about the hiring of McGee. “McGee? PR nightmare,” she wrote to him. “ I’ll be blunt. The GC did not get that one right. . . . I don’t think that this will be brushed aside.”
Crosby disagreed. In a response to Norbut, he wrote: “What we know is that the state attorney in Florida concluded that there was no corroborating evidence to the allegation to bring a charge. End of story. . . . We are lucky to have him.” A May 4 story in the Cape Cod Times reported that Crosby referred several times to McGee as a “superstar,” adding that the allegations against him were “wholly unsubstantiated” and have “zero substance.”
On May 6, Schwartzman learned from a Globe article that, according to unnamed officials familiar with McGee’s employment history, the Patrick administration never conducted its own internal investigation of the Florida charges and instead relied on the findings of the Florida prosecutor. The Globe report was subsequently confirmed by the Patrick administration.
When Republican Rep. Daniel Winslow said he planned to hire a private investigator to investigate the Florida incident, McGee decided to call it quits. On May 9 – just eight days after he was hired as the gambling commission’s interim executive director and after only three days on the job – McGee abruptly quit.Two days later, Patrick said he would welcome McGee back to his administration. “He is a very, very strong, very able, high-contributing member of our team, and I hope he will come back,” the Cape Cod Times quoted Patrick as saying.
But despite having Patrick’s public support, McGee never returned. After taking a leave of absence, he resigned from the Patrick administration in June.