Casinos, recusals, and the optics of ethics

During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, President Bill Clinton famously told a grand jury, “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” To paraphrase Clinton, Massachusetts Gaming Commission chairman Stephen Crosby’s current predicament may hinge on what the meaning of “recuse” is.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “recuse” thusly: “to remove (oneself) from participation to avoid a conflict of interest.”

The Boston Globe reported that an as-yet-unidentified individual has provided the State Ethics Commission with a sworn statement alleging that Crosby continued to work with the Gaming Commission on Greater Boston casino applications despite recusing himself from the process.

The Ethics Commission’s preliminary inquiry centers on possible conflicts of interest in the Gaming Commission’s decision to award Wynn Resorts the license to build a casino in Everett on land partly owned by Paul Lohnes, a Crosby friend. Caesar’s Entertainment,which was involved in a competing and ultimately unsuccessful plan at the former Suffolk Downs racetrack, had also pointed fingers at Crosby and his friendship with Lohnes. Crosby has denied any improprieties.

The preliminary inquiry comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who is using every tool at his disposal to put the skids on the Everett casino. The lawsuit, which targets the Gaming Commission and Crosby and asserts that Boston should also be a host community to the Everett casino, contains allegations nearly identical to those contained in the sworn statement sent to the Ethics Commission.

According to the city’s latest complaint: “The Commission’s award of the license was the product of a corrupt process to favor Wynn, which deprived the citizens of Boston of their statutory right to vote on the proposed casino development and caused additional grave harm to the city’s residents.” In a recent WGBH “Boston Public Radio” interview, co-host Jim Braude queried Walsh on the word “corrupt.” Walsh decided not to go there.

Which brings us back to the word “recuse.” Last year, Globe columnist Joan Vennochi opined that Crosby’s recusal was not enough. “Stephen Crosby must go. Everyone knows it,” she wrote. “Crosby can still wield influence even if he can’t vote.”

Candidate Charlie Baker, among others, agreed that Crosby should resign from the commission given the problems associated with the optics of a conflict of interest.

An active, even though preliminary, ethics investigation further clouds the already murky Greater Boston casino hunt. Just as the smoke had cleared over the MassDOT board, Gov. Baker finds himself up against another set of problems created by problematic Patrick administration appointees. As Vennochi concluded, “There’s controversy ahead, with or without a diminished Crosby at the helm.”

–GABRIELLE GURLEY

 

BEACON HILL

Judges and prosecutors clash in a Beacon Hill debate over mandatory minimum sentences as protesters flood the State House. (State House News)

Senate President Stan Rosenberg says the Senate is exploring possible ways to trim back the film tax credit, rather than eliminate it outright. Many in the Senate and the Baker administration favor ditching the credit, but the House supports it. (Boston Herald)

The Boston Herald says former governor Deval Patrick‘s administration “secretly diverted” close to $27 million to off-budget accounts that funded, among other things, $1.35 million in trade junket costs.

Gov. Charlie Baker‘s early retirement incentive program is drawing fewer applicants than anticipated, which could lead to layoffs later this later. (Boston Globe)

The Herald reports that Treasurer Deborah Goldberg disclosed in an ethics filing that her office awarded $100 million in bonds to the firm where her husband works. She says he works in an area of the firm that has nothing to do with bonds. (Boston Herald)

Goldberg unveils a plan to launch college-savings accounts for kindergartners. (WBUR)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Littleton is experiencing rapid growth thanks in part to sound planning, according to an editorial in the Lowell Sun.

About 17 acres of developable land, including several waterfront parcels that the state had taken from Somerset to build a bridge, will revert back to the town with a new bridge and access road being completed. (Herald News)

OLYMPICS

A new poll indicates a slim majority of state residents would support hosting the Games if venues are scattered across the state. (WBUR/MassINC Polling Group)

Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist, a leading critic of the Olympic bid, says new Boston 2024 chairman Steve Pagliuca offered to hire him as a consultant to the effort in a recent phone conversation. Boston 2024 says no such thing happened. (WGBH)

CASINOS

The developer of a proposed $650 million waterfront casino in New Bedford submitted its agreement for financial backing from a Pennsylvania gaming company just under the third and final deadline extension it had received from the state. (Standard-Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The suburban Dallas police officer shown on a video pinning a 14-year-old girl on the ground and pulling his gun on other teens after responding to a report of a pool party being crashed has resigned. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum had a lunchtime campaign stop at an Iowa restaurant where one voter — the chair of the county Republican committee — showed up. (Politico)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Boston officials are prepared to green light Don Chiofaro‘s plan to build a tower up to 600 feet high on the waterfront site of the Boston Harbor Garage. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

A Phillips Academy student who graduated on Sunday is facing charges for organizing an underage drinking party in New Hampshire (Eagle-Tribune)

Peabody parents protest a school department decision to shift after-school supervision from an organization called For Kids Only to the YMCA. (Salem News)

HEALTH CARE

A state panel is scheduled to vote today on new regulations governing nurse staffing levels in ICUs, but the state’s main nurses’ union says the proposed rules give hospitals more leeway than the law intended. (Boston Globe)

An expert advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration recommends approval of a new cholesterol drug called Praluent, but with restrictions. (Associated Press) The new drug, along with others in the pipeline, are widely expected to be revolutionary treatments. (Time)

San Francisco gives approval to warning labels for sugary drinks. (Time)

A medical marijuana dispensary in Brockton is slated to open next month, the first one in the state to start doing business. (The Enterprise)

TRANSPORTATION

The state’s commuter rail system woes are continuing, despite the balmy weather, with the new operator, Keolis, recording poorer on-time performance in May than the previous operator had last May. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan survives an initial legal challenge, with a court ruling that the plan can’t be challenged before it is finalized. (Governing)

A study by UMass Dartmouth claims poorer communities in Massachusetts pay disproportionately higher premiums for federal flood insurance than more affluent towns. (Standard-Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The New York Times looks at several recent studies that claim the country’s bail system penalizes poor defendants by keeping them in jail before they have their day in court.

Convicted spree killer Gary Lee Sampson, sentenced to death after he murdered two South Shore men and a man in New Hampshire in 2001, is seeking a change of venue for his sentencing retrial. (Patriot Ledger)

A Saugus mother denies raping a second twin. (Item)