Casino mogul Steve Wynn wants to build a lavish new resort-style casino on what’s currently a nondescript parcel of land in Everett. And in an awkward coincidence, Stephen Crosby—the chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the body charged with determining who’ll get the state’s coveted three casino licenses – happens to be a former business partner of one of the parcel’s co-owners.
The Boston Globe has reported aggressively on this entanglement in recent days. On Sunday, in a front-page, above-the-fold story, the paper claimed that Crosby’s failure to promptly disclose that relationship raises “doubts about [his] judgment.”
But earlier today—speaking to the press during a break in a Gaming Commission hearing at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center—Crosby said he’s not getting a fair shake.
“The law and public interest require that a public official recuse him or herself from any public issue that involves a personal relationship if that personal relationship will bear on an action that that person is about to take,” Crosby argued. “I did that. I did exactly that.”
Crosby says his relationship with Paul Lohnes, his former business partner, was a non-issue until August 2013, when the Gaming Commission’s scrutiny of the Everett parcel coveted by Wynn intensified.
“I filed with the ethics commission in August when this issue first came up, when I first heard about it, before there was anything before the commission,” Crosby said. “I then went back to the Ethics Commission when this funny business about the land came up and said, ‘Should I do anything more? What can I do?’”
After Crosby filed a second disclosure form in October, the Massachusetts Ethics Commission told him said he was free to proceed. In his comments today, Crosby stressed that fact—and rejected suggestions that he recuse himself from deciding who gets the casino license for Eastern Massachusetts.
“Every word I utter will be in public about this evaluation,” he explained. “And I think a fair and reasonable person will conclude I can be objective about this.
Still, Crosby is recusing himself from a commission vote later this week on Wynn’s proposed purchase of the Everett parcel. That could temper the criticism—or, perhaps, make it even sharper.