SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Questions are arising about Springfield Casino Consultant Cezar Froelich, after revelations that the Illinois firm in which he is a partner has ties to MGM and Penn National; two casino companies hoping to develop a casino in Springfield.
According to records from the Illinois Secretary of State's Office obtained by 22News, Froelich's law firm, Shefsky & Froelich, LTD, has MGM Resorts International and Penn National Gaming listed as clients in Illinois.
Though both companies are looking to develop casino sites in Springfield, City Solicitor Ed Pikula told 22News that this is not a conflict-of-interest under state ethics laws.
In a statement sent to 22News by the Mayor's Office, Pikula wrote that while the city had put out a proposal for a consultant, the consultant disclosed relationships with MGM and Penn National, but added that work did not pertain to any proposal in Massachusetts.
"Our Consultant disclosed its broad experience in representing the industry as well as public entities in its response to the RFP (request for proposal), and specifically pointed out the relationship with MGM in Illinois with regard to licensing, and the lack of relationship with anything to do with MGM in Massachusetts," Pikula wrote.
"At the time of the interviews, there was an indication that Penn-National may be involved, and that relationship was also disclosed. We discussed ‘walling off' any of the firms employees handling those matters from being involved in the scope of services provided under the contract with the City, and the Consultant agreed to do so."
MGM recently released a proposal to build a resort-style casino along Main Street in the city's South End. Penn National is interested in developing a site in Springfield's North End. Two other firms, Hard Rock International and Ameristar Casinos, are also interested in developing casino sites in the city.
Troy Stremming, Ameristar's Senior Vice President for Government Relations and Public Affairs, told 22News that these facts were not disclosed to him, and he is concerned about the transparency of the selection process.
"It's extremely concerning to us to learn that there's been an ongoing relationship and maybe even a continuing relationship as we have said here today with two of the applicants. It seems a bit of a stretch that you can be unbiased and independent of all of these applicants if you're in a client-professional relationship where money is being exchanged," Stremming said in a telephone interview.
22News contacted the state Gaming Commission , which will ultimately decide which western Massachusetts casino proposal will be approved. Spokesperson Elaine Driscoll said that the group cannot comment on this until their next open meeting on Tuesday.
Froelich is a principal, partner, and shareholder of the Chicago-based law firm Shefsky & Froelich, Ltd.