By Walter Pavlo
Special to the Leader Herald
Wynn Resorts is nearing completion of its $2.6 billion casino here that is scheduled to open in June 2019 …. that is IF Wynn Resorts is found suitable to hold a gaming license in Massachusetts.
Starting this week, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) will start to look at details of its investigation into sexual harassment actions and coverup of those actions by senior executives at Wynn.
The investigation was launched after a Wall Street Journal report detailed years of sexual harassment allegations at Wynn, mostly by its co-founder and CEO, Steve Wynn. Multi million dollar settlements with former female employees at Wynn and decades of inaction by senior staff led the Nevada Gaming Control Board to levy a fine of $20 million against Wynn, the largest ever in Nevada state gaming history.
Central in Nevada’s decision to allow Wynn to continue to have a license was its recognition of the significant changes the company made since Mr. Wynn’s departure (changed name of project in Boston, new board members, more women on board, sexual harassment policies, training, etc.).
So how has Wynn handled newer, post Steve Wynn, allegations of sexual harassment. One need look no further than its newest casino project right here in Everett, MA.
Mary Brackett-Kelly was hired in October 2015 by Wynn Boston Harbor as an Executive Assistant to President Bob DeSalvio. In June 2018, she filed a lawsuit in Middlesex County Superior Court (Massachusetts) claiming that she was sexually harassed by Thomas Dillon, then a Wynn Boston Harbor employee. The project was renamed Encore Boston Harbor (Encore) in 2018 after the Steve Wynn allegations and subsequent shake up.
Dillon, at the recommendation of current Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox (then President of Wynn Resorts under Steve Wynn), transferred to Encore in late 2016 as Chief Information Officer (CIO) after working for Wynn in Macau (China). At the time, the Encore already had a CIO, Greg Dauenhauer, who remains with Encore today. However, DeSalvio took Maddox up on his offer and agreed to bring Dillon on board in Massachusetts.
Between January and April 2017, just a few months after Dillon was on the job, Brackett-Kelly told management that she felt uncomfortable around Dillon and that he had made several comments to her that were both offensive and sexually-charged.
Finally, in an incident that left Brackett-Kelly shaken, Dillon came around behind her chair and placed his hands on her shoulders and started massaging. According to Brackett-Kelly, she told Dillon to stop, twice, which he finally did, only to say, “It’s always been okay in Macau.”
Mike Carazza, then VP of Corporate Compliance and Investigations at Encore and a retired FBI Special Agent, and Jacqui Krum, general counsel, met with Brackett-Kelly regarding the touching and the other sexually harassing incidents she had experienced from Dillon.
One of those incidents involved Brackett-Kelly offering to take Dillon’s picture for his Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) license. At first he posed against a blank wall then suddenly turned his back to her, placed his hands on the wall, spread his legs and asked, “Do you want to frisk me?” The multiple offensive comments and incessant invitations for Brackett Kelly to join him for breakfast at his hotel, located just across the street from Encore’s office, made working at Encore miserable.
Encore’s Carazza and Krum interviewed Dillon after the “touching” incident where he admitted that his interaction with Brackett-Kelly and acknowledged that she had told him that she was not comfortable. Dillon stated that he apologized for the incident and also acknowledged that he had repeatedly asked Brackett-Kelley to breakfast, which he insisted was a friendly offer as a “treat.” Dillon even admitted to retelling a story of an old boss he had worked with (at another hotel company) that had a confederate flag in his office and referred to African Americans as “n ———-,” and was only sharing the experience as a learning experience for Brackett-Kelly. Dillon also admitted to Carazza and Krum that touching Brackett-Kelly was a meant as a sign of “affection” and that he had done the same thing over in Macau.
Brackett-Kelly filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), a state agency that investigates complaints of discrimination that occur in the workplace (Reference MCAD Docket No. 18BEM00869;EEOC No.16C2018-01242).
However, she did so only after things escalated within the company regarding another incident with Dillon and the disclosures about the sexual harassment culture that engulfed the Wynn organization for decades.
While Brackett-Kelly was on vacation the first week of July 2017, Dillon asked Kara Sullivan, a co-worker of Brackett-Kelly’s and had only been hired a few months before, to a nearby Starbucks at Station Landing in Medford, MA (located near the development offices of the Everett casino).
There Dillon insisted on purchasing Sullivan’s drink, an offer she repeatedly declined, stating that she would pay for her own. Rejected, Dillon moved behind her, grabbed her with one arm around her waist and placed his other hand over her mouth, leaving those at the Starbucks stunned. A camera in Starbucks captured the incident and Sullivan, in shock, ran from the Starbucks and went to the parking garage back at Encore where she called a co-worker at Wynn Las Vegas.
Later she met with Carazza and described to him what happened. When Dillon returned to Wynn’s office from Starbucks, he was confronted about the claim and subsequently escorted from the building. He was later dismissed from the company. According to Brackett-Kelly, DeSalvio told her upon her return from vacation that she had been right about Dillon and that he had been dismissed. DeSalvio then told her that Matt Maddox apologized to him stating “ I’m sorry for dumping Dillon on you”. Seven months later, the incidents concerning Steve Wynn were disclosed in January 2018.
Brackett-Kelly grew concerned about the environment at Wynn Boston Harbor, her encounter with Dillon and the prospects of continuing to work for the company. She asked for Encore’s records from Krum about her incident with Dillon and documentation regarding the actions that the company undertook as a result. She was denied those records by Krum and Troy Mitchem, VP of HR at Wynn Las Vegas (also the son of Steve Wynn’s long time executive assistant Cindy Mitchem) and her own employment record reflected no reported interactions with Dillon. Brackett-Kelly left the company in February 2018 and shortly thereafter filed a complaint with MCAD and then the civil lawsuit claiming harassment.
In May 2018, just months after the shocking allegations against Steve Wynn, Lindler Mendelson who represents Encore, filed a letter to the MCAD in response to Brackett-Kelly’s complaint. According to that letter, Krum took the initiative to sit with Dillon and tell him that Brackett- Kelly would no longer work for him and that she did not want to associate with him other than just common pleasantries. Krum also stated that she personally sat down with Dillon, walked him through all of the employee policies on harassment and asked if he had questions. According to Lindler Mendelson’s letter, Dillon said he understood. Then Krum and Carazza followed up to assure Brackett-Kelly of the steps they had taken …. on its surface that seems like a good way to handle things. But it was not enough for the company to state that they had done the right thing, they needed to discredit Brackett-Kelly.
Encore attorneys claim that Brackett-Kelly was at an all-hands meeting headed by Krumjust after the revelations about Mr. Wynn in January 2018. The claim was that Brackett-Kelly, upon hearing the speech, leaned over to Greg John, an Encore spokesman who was also at the meeting, and said, “Let me tell you what I think of [Ms. Krum]’s talk” and proceeded to put her hands on his buttocks and whispered in his ear “you’ve got a nice ass.” Wynn further alleges that she told John, “Hey, at my age, I want to be sexually harassed. Bring it on.” Allegedly, John relayed the comment on to John Tocco, a Wynn executive and the son of Stephen Tocco, Wynn’s chief strategists at the high-powered firm ML Strategies. There is no written account of this claim by Encore’s attorneys. In June 2018, John, the same “John” who claimed he was grabbed by Brackett-Kelly, issued a statement on behalf of Encore, in his role as spokesperson, to the Boston Globe regarding Brackett-Kelly’s original claims stating that, “a thorough internal investigation and review by an independent law firm … [and] the issue was handled professionally and decisively.” John, who had been working with Wynn since its early days in Boston, resigned from the company in December 2018 at the end of a 3-year contract.
Dillon, according to hisLinkedIn profile, now works in Macau for The 13 Resort, and lists his experience working for Wynn Macau …. but nothing related to his short stint in Boston. Kara Sullivan filed her own MCAD incident report but no police report. She remains employed at Encore.
At a hearing in Middlesex Superior Court (Reference Docket 1881CV01663), Brackett-Kelley’s attorney, David Bricker, of counsel at Thornton Law Firm, asked that the case move forward to a jury trial. In attendance was Jacqui Krum, who huddled later with attorneys representing Encore and Dillon. No representatives from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission were in attendance at the hearing.
A decision on whether the case will move forward is expected soon from Judge Christopher Barry-Smith.