Friday, August 18, 2006

Gazette: "Reputation at Stake"

The Gazette editorialized this morning (August 18) about the actual and potential conflicts of interest between those involved with the Riverside casino, and those who sit on the "independent" Washington County Riverboat Foundation board. Editorial, "Casino Foundation Reputation at Stake," The Gazette, August 18, 2006 (also available here).

In Nicholas Johnson, "Hat's Off to Hennigan," August 13, 2006, I noted that there are more potential conflicts here than spouces serving on the boards of both the casino and the Foundation, or owning stock in the casino, or the chair of the Foundation being the banker for both the casino and the Foundation. The argument was made on behalf of the Foundation board members that a Foundation board member's financial interest in the casino didn't constitute a conflict; the only conflict would be if the Foundation board member had an interest in an organization that was coming to the Foundation for a grant.

But that's exactly what the rain forest is. As I wrote,

The ties between Dan Kehl, David Oman, and Timothy Putney are such -- the relationship between the rain forest's financial success in Riverside and the interest in [its relationship to] Kehl's personal profits (as well as that of all other casino stockholders), the assertions of Kehl and Oman that they are counting $8 million from the Foundation as part of the $25 million [demanded by Oman from Riverside] (before even filing an application, let alone a meeting of the Foundation ) -- that the rain forest is not 'just another grant applicant.'"

Money going from the Foundation to the rain forest is, in effect, money going from the Foundation to the casino; and thus an interest in the casino is an interest in a grant applicant.

So there's a little more here that needs to be pursued to maintain everyone's reputation.

And while they're at it, how about exploring the source of the money to build this casino. Is there a mortgage on this property? Who holds it? Could it possibly be a firm in Nevada or New Jersey? Where are the law firms that represent these interests -- Nevada, California, or are they all in Iowa? I don't know the answers, but The Gazette, rightfully credited as one of the leaders in the public's fight for open meetings and public records, might want to get those answers for us.

The Iowa law provides for Iowa gambling to be in the hands of Iowa non-profit charities, for the use of Iowa employees, and Iowa products. Even if out-of-state interests in casinos are not forbidden by the current Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission members, aren't Iowans entitled to know where the money is coming from -- and, not incidentally, where it is going when they leave it behind at one of the "Iowa" casinos?

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