Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) Chair Steve Crosby is being looked at by the State Ethics Commission in an initial inquiry that Crosby has said he believes will soon clear him of any wrongdoing – accusations first reported by the Boston Globe late last week that emerged due to a sworn statement from an anonymous person saying Crosby intervened in the Wynn Everett licensing decision after recusing himself in May 2014 from the process.
“I have rigorously adhered to all regulations and guidance provided to me by the State Ethics Commission over the last three years,” Crosby said in a statement provided to the Independent. “I am fully cooperating with what I understand to be a preliminary inquiry and I look forward to an expedient resolution of that inquiry. I appreciate the professionalism of the Ethics Commission and, as the process is designed to be confidential, I will decline further comment.”
At the outset of last Thursday’s MGC regular meeting, at least two Commissioners backed Crosby – saying he never contacted them or tried to intervene in the process after recusing himself.
“At no time after he recused himself on May 8th, did Chairman Steve Crosby offer to me, publicly or privately, any suggestion, opinion, or hint whatsoever about how any aspect or component of the Region A licensing decision should be resolved,” said Commissioner James McHugh.
Commissioner Enrique Zuniga agreed with McHugh’s statement.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said he had never seen an anonymous person be able to act as judge and jury in an Ethics inquiry.
“It’s interesting that the ‘concerned citizen’ who filed this statement also took it upon his/herself to act as judge and jury and conclude that the Greater Boston license be rescinded from Wynn Resorts,” said DeMaria. “In my two decades in public service, I’ve never seen an instance like this where anonymous allegations are taken as established fact – especially following a transparent and open process like the one demonstrated by the MGC that led to the historic award to Wynn Resorts. Obviously, this is an act of political theatre and desperation from people who prosper every single day that Wynn Everett is delayed.”
He said Everett would continue on with the normal courses of action, which include local meetings on the casino this month of the City Site Plan Review Committee and the Everett Conservation Commission.
“We will continue unabated in our efforts to make Wynn Everett a reality for all of Massachusetts and with it the cleaning of a contaminated site, the creation of thousands of jobs and the influx in hundreds of millions in revenue to the Commonwealth,” he said. “Efforts such as these, while disappointing, will do nothing to deter us from our ultimate goal – the prosperity of the City of Everett and its residents.”
Ethics Commission spokesman David Giannotti told the Independent this week that there are no investigations that could be confirmed concerning Crosby.
“We cannot confirm or deny whether we’ve initiated any investigation,” he said. “There are no public hearings scheduled on Mr. Crosby.”
A preliminary inquiry is set in motion by the five-person Commission, which approves or rejects the idea of looking further into a matter.
The Ethics Commission works mostly behind closed doors and their goings-on are typically not public.
After an inquiry or investigation, the Commission can schedule a Show Cause hearing – which triggers a public adjudicatory proceeding. The Commission can also refer a matter to the state Attorney General’s Office or to the District Attorney.
Despite the usual secrecy at this point, the Globe learned and reported last week that there had been a sworn statement by an unknown individual given to the Ethics Commission, something which apparently triggered the inquiry.
That statement alleged that Crosby actively participated in the process of influencing the other Commissioners during the Wynn licensing decision. Crosby had recused himself initially when a land deal at the Everett site on lower Broadway went sour, and it was learned that Crosby had formerly had business ties to one owner of the site, Paul Lohnes.
At that time, Crosby was only recusing himself from discussions on the land deal in Everett.
However, after attending a Kentucky Derby VIP party at Suffolk Downs – another competitor for the gaming license at the time – in 2014 Crosby decided to recuse himself from the Greater Boston region decision. The attendance at Suffolk Downs was made all the more precarious when it was learned that Crosby had been the college roommate at Harvard University of Suffolk Downs co-owner Joe O’Donnell.
Crosby had said, at the time it was learned of the Lohnes conflict, that he had only been in business with him decades earlier and hadn’t really been in contact with him.
However, according to the Globe report, Crosby, Lohnes and their wives dined together in 2012 – though Crosby told the Globe he was not aware at that time that Lohnes had any dealings with the casino land in Everett.
It was only later when a mutual friend of his and Lohnes’s called him, did Crosby learn of the land ownership interest in Everett. The friend said Lohnes wished to not have any contact due to the land deal, Crosby told the Globe, and he agreed to that.
Some of those same allegations are contained in the amended lawsuit filed by Boston last month. In that suit, Boston alleges that Crosby had much deeper conflicts of interest and should have recused himself from the process much earlier than before.
The Globe reported that the anonymous individual who triggered the Ethics Commission inquiry indicated that the conflict was severe enough as to put the entire license award to Wynn in question.
The Boston lawsuit also indicates the same thing about Crosby’s involvement.