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Springfield City Council Set To Vote On Casino Ethics Ordinance

MGM Springfield

The recent snowstorms have wreaked havoc on work, school, and personal schedules. The city council in Springfield, Massachusetts is holding a special meeting later today. Three previously scheduled sessions were cancelled because of snow.          

Council business that was postponed by the snowstorms includes a vote on a casino ethics ordinance that would bar elected city officials – the councilors and the mayor -- from accepting jobs with MGM Springfield for three years after leaving the city’s employment.

The ordinance which won initial council approval in January called for a five-year cooling off period, but a subcommittee endorsed an amendment proposed by councilor Orlando Ramos to shorten the period to three years.

" If you at the state level, the members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission have a three-year ban. I thought five years was too much," explained Ramos.

 Under the amended ordinance non-elected city officials who are considered “ major policymakers” would face a two-year waiting period for a casino job.

 City Council President Mike Fenton who sponsored the ordinance said the intent is to eliminate any appearance of unfair action on the part of city officials in the casino project

" We need to deal with public perception of what casino gaming is, and make sure we execute these agreements and see this development through only the highest ethical standards," said Fenton.

Fenton, who said he wanted to set a tougher standard than what state casino regulators are required to follow, nonetheless signaled he was willing to compromise.

" It is part of the democratic process, but I am determined to codify ( an ethics ordinance) into law," said Fenton.

MGM, which received a license from the state gaming commission last year to build and operate the only resort casino authorized in western Massachusetts, plans to begin construction later this year on the $800 million project in Springfield.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno signed a development agreement with MGM and the city council ratified it unanimously in 2013. The agreement gives Springfield millions of dollars in annual payments.

Now, MGM will need the city council to approve zoning changes and permanent street closures and will have to obtain construction permits from city departments. .

City Councilor Tim Rooke labeled the ethics ordinance “a headline grabber” and said he is philosophically opposed to it.

Mayor Sarno has not said if he would sign the ordinance.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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