Beyond Traffic City Councilors’ Mounting Casino Conflict Concerns

With just weeks to go before Encore Boston Harbor Casino is slated to celebrate its grand opening, City Councilors are expressing a number of concerns. In addition to their ongoing preoccupation with the City’s plan to manage vehicle and waterway traffic, Councilors also raised a number of other concerns about the casino at the last Council meeting on Monday, May 13.

City officials have promised a major meeting in conjunction with Encore Boston Harbor at City Hall on May 28, 6 p.m., to go over every aspect of the parking and traffic plans.

•Participation Restrictions

A resolution presented by Councilor Peter Napolitano requested that the City Solicitor look into whether or not elected officials are legally able to visit and enjoy the casino once opened. The request came amid rumors that City Councilors may not be able to participate in casino activities.

“That’s what the City Solicitor is paid for,” said Councilor Fred Capone. “We don’t want to get embarrassed or violate public policy.”

“I look forward to spending my 70th birthday at that casino,” said Councilor Wayne Matewsky, who just turned 60 last summer.

The Council asked for the City Solicitor to provide a ruling on the subject at the next Council meeting.

•Conflicts of Interest

The question of whether or not Councilors could visit Encore called into question the larger issue of conflicts of interest regarding elected officials and the casino.

“If my mother worked as a hostess at the casino, would it be a conflict of interest [for me] to vote on anything having to do with the casino?” said Councilor Matewsky. “I think it would be. I don’t want people voting where they have a conflict. We let the School Department get away with it, but I’m not going to [let them] get away with [this]. Those days are over for me.

“If you have a relative that works at the casino and you serve on the council, there’s a conflict,” he continued. “If a [casino] issue comes up on this Council floor, you have to recuse yourself. There’s a price to pay.”

Councilor Matewsky requested additional information from the City Solicitor around general conflicts of interest regarding Council and the casino.

“I want clarification in writing to include the state Gaming Commission or state ethics,” he said.

Councilor Peter Napolitano added, “I’m going to pay attention from now on [to] conflicts of interest.”

•Fine Payment

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission fined Wynn Resorts $35 million for failing to disclose allegations of sexual misconduct against its founder and former CEO Steve Wynn.

Councilor Anthony DiPierro presented a resolution for what should be done with the payment, saying it shouldn’t be treated as regular gambling income.

“It’s not a profit, it’s a fine,” echoed Councilor John Hanlon. “They lied to the City of Everett. I think Everett should get all of it.”

DiPierro suggested it should be invested in the City to help manage traffic and parking issues created by the casino.

The Council requested that the Mayor and CFO appear at the next Council meeting to clarify the State’s gambling proceeds formula and what the City’s options are.

•Public Relations

Councilor Matewsky had previously expressed his dissatisfaction with the casino’s handling of public relations. He reiterated this sentiment at Monday’s Council meeting.

“We took a two-mile tour of the casino and they didn’t even offer us a bottle of water,” he said. “We are the city fathers. This is a big deal going on here.

“Where’s the savoir-faire here?” he continued. They didn’t even send a Christmas card. I find that disturbing.”

Council President Richard Dell Isola agreed, stating that “communication is fading.”

“This is supposed to be exciting. I thought it would be an exciting time to be a councilman,” said Councilor Matewsky. “I don’t see any extra privileges coming my way.

“You may think I’m a sensitive guy,” he continued. “I’m not looking for freebies. I just want to be treated with respect.”

•Petition for Extended Hours

Encore requested approval from Council for a special license for extended hours. However, the Council moved to postpone a vote until after the City presents its traffic and parking plan on May 28 prior to the next Council meeting.

The next Council meeting will be on Tuesday, May 28, due to the Memorial Day holiday on Monday.

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