City Councilors in Springfield have discussed if changes should be made to an ethics ordinance that restricts former politicians and city administrators from taking jobs at the MGM casino.
Councilor Mike Fenton, who wrote the casino ethics ordinance that was unanimously passed by the City Council and signed by the mayor in 2015, said it may be outdated and too strict.
“It creates a whole pool of people that are prohibited from employment at now one of the largest employers in the city,” said Fenton. “It made sense at the time. I think it needs some adjusting.”
The ordinance prohibits members of the council and the mayor from having a direct or indirect interest in the Springfield casino or being employed there for three years after leaving office.
Additionally, city department heads or people whose salary is $60,000 and up who report directly to a department head are banned from work at the casino for two years after leaving government service.
“The purpose was to create a higher ethical standards and threshold for the casino industry as it entered into the Springfield Market, ” Fenton said.
Fenton said six years ago MGM needed scores of city permits and authorizations in order to build the $1 billion resort casino and the ethics ordinance was necessary to counter any public perception that elected officials or nonelected policymakers could benefit from actions they took.
” That was there to protest against public perception that city employees would use their authority to advance their job interests.” said Fenton adding “It has worked very well. There have been no scandals.”
No current or former City Councilor has publicly expressed any interest in a job with MGM.
Councilor Malo Brown, who was not on the Council when the casino ethics ordinance was approved, said he wants to “tweak it a little bit.”
” When you created it, it was necessary based on human temptation,” said Brown.
Agreeing with Brown, Councilor Trayce Whitfield said the way the ordinance reads now, many city employees are barred from even part-time employment at the casino.
” It did make a lot of sense at the time, I am not sure it is as relevant now,” said Whitfield.
Councilor Tim Allen, who voted for the ordinance in 2015, said MGM is now an accepted part of the Springfield community. But six years ago the casino was controversial and opponents at times cast aspersions on supporters.
“It is different time now,” said Allen.
The discussion about the ethics ordinance took place at a recent meeting of the Casino Oversight Committee.
Fenton said he would propose specific changes at a future meeting of the committee.