SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - A casino developer is irked, and a city councilor feels Springfield's chances of getting a casino could be in jeopardy.
The 22News I-Team uncovered a potential conflict of interest involving the city's casino consultant
Springfield hired casino consulting firm Shefsky and Froelich to help in its selection process. The 22News I-Team discovered that the firm has represented MGM and Penn National in Illinois. This is not sitting well with one of the casino developers or members of the city council, who were in the dark about this.
"Whether its real or perceived our consultants objectivity in advising the mayor is now questionable", says Springfield City Council President James Ferrara.
Springfield hired Cezar Froelich and his firm for casino consulting. Froelich has been a lobbyist for Penn National and MGM casinos: Two of the four casino developers that would like to build in Springfield. City Solicitor Ed Pikula told the 22News I-Team they knew about Froelich's lobbying in Illinois. He insists it violates no state ethics laws.
"It doesn't matter what the state ethics commission or our city solicitor says, that just doesn't pass the smell test", says Springfield city councilor John Lysak.
Ameristar Casinos bought land in East Springfield on Page Boulevard for $16 million. Now they don't believe the city is giving them a fair chance to build on it.
"I'm just hopeful that this is something that we can work through so that all of us can be put in a position where we feel like we're competing on a level playing field", says Troy Stremming, Ameristar Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs.
Stremming told the 22News I-team, the consultant's relationship with MGM or Penn National were not disclosed during Monday's development meeting with the mayor. Springfield has budgeted about $125,000 for casino consulting.
"I would have never approved any money going towards this if I had known that", says Lysak.
The two councilors we talked to and Ameristar want this consulting firm out.
"We need to start this process over hire a new consulting firm and make sure we do this right, make sure we disclose this, we have four companies possibly looking at putting a half a billion dollars into our city, hiring thousands of people, we need to make sure we do this right", says Lysak.
"This is not transparency, and it may jeopardize Springfield's with a casino license with the state gaming commission", says Ferrara.
Elaine Driscoll, spokeswoman for the state gaming commission says the gaming commission can't comment on this until it's next open meeting on Tuesday. We tried to reach out to Cezar Froelich, but his assistant said he was attending a funeral.