City councilors told not to have contact with casino developers - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

City councilors told not to have direct contact with casino developers

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Springfield City Councilor Tim Rooke says he is not going to listen to a warning advising all city employees from having contact with interested casino developers.

"What I am suggesting is that anyone who is going to spend $1 billion in the city of Springfield should feel very free to pick up the phone and ask to meet with the mayor, ask to meet with the economic development director, ask to meet with the city council," said Rooke. "Anyone who is a decision maker in this process should feel that they have free and open access to speak to that individual."

Last week, City Solicitor Ed Pikula sent out an email to all city employees notifying them they are prohibited from communicating directly with any of the three interested casino operators.

"It was Ed Pikula's suggestion that we not have any contact with the developers, which is a little bit almost impossible, because three members of the city council are actually on the city council's casino review committee," said Rooke.

The email specified that if a city councilor feels the need to communicate with a proposer, the interaction must go through the city's casino consultant.

"It was a suggestion, but certainly I think they have crossed the line," said Rooke.

Rooke says prohibiting communication between city officials and interested casino developers raises suspicions.

"The more open the process is, the less likely there is for rumors to be circulating that the fix is in for one casino development over the other two," said Rooke.

In a statement to CBS 3, Pikula responded by saying, "The city of Springfield's RFP process contains restrictions on developers lobbying members of the Springfield City Council. If developers are lobbying city councilors, they should notify the city's law department."

Currently, MGM, Penn National Gaming and Ameristar are all in phase two of Springfield's casino process. In January, the city council will have to approve any host agreement before it can appear on the ballot.

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