Springfield council president proposes casino ethics bill
BOSTON (AP) — Springfield’s city council president, in an effort to discourage abuse, on Wednesday proposed restricting when city leaders can seek employment with MGM, the casino company building an $800 million resort downtown.
Michael Fenton filed a city ordinance that would prevent a mayor or councilor from working for MGM or its affiliates for at least five years after leaving city government.
The proposal also would impose a two-year ban on city workers in major policymaking positions such as department heads or anyone who earns $60,000 or more annually and reports directly to a department head.
Fenton said he proposed the ethics bill to assure the state’s first licensed casino project is as transparent as possible. He said it’s not in response to any specific instance of abuse.
“I want to take any appearance of unfair play off the table by codifying stringent rules,” he said in a statement. “The casino project comes with unprecedented risks, and we owe it to the public to be as transparent and forthcoming as possible.”
MGM Springfield and Mayor Domenic Sarno’s office declined to comment.
Fenton said the proposal is the first of its kind in Massachusetts.
The state ethics law requires a one-year “cooling off period” for municipal employees in limited circumstances, he said. The state casino law also has a three year ban for members of the state Gaming Commission. The council will debate the proposal Jan. 12 in City Hall.
“Some may find the time length extraordinary but I believe that building and regulating a casino in Springfield is an extraordinary development that calls for extraordinary measures,” Fenton said.
A public hearing and a possible first vote on the proposed ordinance is set for Jan. 12. An ordinance requires three votes before it is sent to the mayor for approval or rejection in Springfield, 90 miles west of Boston.
MGM was awarded the state’s lone gambling license for western Massachusetts late last year. It hopes to open its resort in 2017.