CITY OWES LAWYERS $500,000
By Josh Resnek
The city council appropriated $500,000 last week for lawyer’s fees already generated by the law firm Greenberg Traurig to defend the city against a racism investigation announced five months ago by the US Attorney’s office that is ongoing.
Greenberg Traurig is the same law firm representing the mayor for the past several years.
Assistant City Solicitor Keith Slattery and the city’s outside counsel, Greenberg Traurig Attorney Linda Ricci, both appeared before the city council to inform the city of the outstanding bill that needed to be paid, with the admonition that another bill can be expected and soon.
“The investigation is very broad in scope. It goes back five years. It covers the whole city of Everett. The stakes are
very high. This is a very significant investigation,” Ricci told the council.
She said no law suit had yet been filed. She said her primary role in defending the city in this government investigation is to avoid a civil lawsuit being filed.
“Everyone – the mayor, the city council, everyone is part of this investigation,” she said.
Ricci indicated at least seven government attorneys, including three from the Department of Justice, are involved in the investigation being conducted by the Federal Justice Civil Rights Division.
The investigation was announced on the heels of a number of racial incidents here with the use of racist memes by city officials, including the mayor’s former chief of communications Deanna Devaney and Anthony DiPierro, the mayor’s cousin who resigned in disgrace from the city council following weeks of protest by large numbers of the city’s Black, Brown and Hispanic community complaining of racism and discrimination.
Presently, the city is apparently following instructions for the production of information as detailed in a letter and a phone call the mayor received from the US Attorney’s office announcing the investigation early in June.
Ricci said other than that letter and phone call, there has been virtually no contact between her office, the city and the US Attorney’s office.
She told the city council that the government has requested a great deal of information including, but not confined to, e-mails and documents, shared among city employees and elected public officials.
“We are in the process of doing that now,” she said. “This is time intensive and labor intensive,” she added.
She said the expectation was that there would be further phases of the investigation.
This could likely include FBI questioning of individuals.
“Could this civil investigation turn into a criminal investigation?” Councilor Darren Costa asked Ricci.
“Could there be criminal exposure for some individuals,” she echoed. “It is a possibility,” she said.
Councilor Stephanie Smith asked Ricci when Greenberg Traurig was hired. Ricci said June. Smith indicated she was not happy that the investigation had gone on for five months with legal bills adding up to $500,000 without the city council’s knowledge.
“Why did it take five months to come to the council?” she asked Ricci and Slattery.
“We were really focused on the case,” Ricci replied. “No money has been paid out yet.”
Slattery did not answer Smith’s question. Rather, he said that Greenberg Traurig had dropped its rates for the city, in some cases charging only half its usual legal fees.
“I’m disappointed it took five months to report this when this happened in June,” Smith added.
The law suit centers around Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – and relates to alleged discriminatory practices by the city of Everett.
Council President John Hanlon asked Ricci: “The Department of Justice has started this investigation. I want to know why.”
Ricci said she believed what sparked the investigation was a series of “media reports we absolutely believe are untrue and misleading.”
According to Ricci, the city’s liability includes a financial and reputational risk to the city which could include punitive and compensatory damages.
The city might even have to allow a government monitor to oversee certain aspects of the city government in a worst case scenario.
Ricci said the mayor had asked everyone to cooperate.
Slattery indicated another substantial invoice would need to be paid, and sooner rather than later.
Efforts to reach the mayor for comment were unsuccessful.
Overall, the Massachusetts gaming scene appears to be gaining strength as time goes by.
With tourist travel to Boston reaching all time high figures again, the Encore hotel has been renting rooms at capacity levels.
Also, with the football season in full swing, Encore’s venue for football has captured a great deal of interest among gamblers and sports face in New England.
At the same time, the state of Massachusetts is inching closer to electronic, online betting on sporting events, a niche of the gaming market place Encore is expected to dominate, even in the highly competitive sports betting market place.
January is when sports gaming at the casino will begin.
The online gambling will commence sometime after that, according to the MGC.
The only negative for Encore is the ongoing difficulties the company is experiencing in Macao, China, where revenues have plummeted and the reliance on what Chinese gaming officials demand are making the future impossible to predict.
Revenues from Macao make up 75% of Wynn Resorts total income.
No matter how well Encore does in Las Vegas and in Everett, the Macao figures impact the company’s overall financial well-being.