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|4/27/2013 ||Email this article Print this article |
|CCDA board discusses conflict of interest policy|
By Jeremy Huss
Members of the Clinton County Development Association (CCDA) board of directors at an April 17 meeting reviewed the organization's conflict of interest policy and debated the Wild Rose Casino's policy on drink limits.
CCDA funds grants to area governments and community organizations using gambling revenue from the Wild Rose casino.
CCDA vice president Matt Stammeyer said he didn't have any current concerns about conflicts of interest but felt it was important representatives review the policy that was adopted in February 2010.
"I would just ask everybody to be mindful of other organizations they belong to and to take that into consideration when discussing and voting," Stammeyer said.
Director Jerome Burken said members who have a potential conflict can ask the CCDA board to weigh in on whether it is an actual conflict.
Stammeyer said the board president is supposed to call for members to declare any conflict prior to a financial award.
If there is a direct conflict, such as a director having a financial interest in a contract for services under discussion, the member should leave during the discussion and vote, Stammeyer said.
Members who serve on the board of directors of organizations receiving money from CCDA should abstain from voting, he stated.
Stammeyer said directors Brig Tubbs and Tom Fullerton were required under the policy to abstain from a vote several years ago that awarded $2 million in funding to the Clinton Regional Development Corp. for the Lincolnway Railport project. Tubbs is an officer with the CRDC, and Fullerton is a past board member.
Although they did abstain from the vote, Tubbs said they were not required to abstain under the policy because it applies only if a CCDA member is an owner or investor with a financial interest.
Representative Alice Schnepel said she wasn't at the CCDA's last meeting but received calls after the fact about members approving funding for an organization with which they are involved.
"I'm just saying this policy doesn't say we have to abstain," Tubbs said.
Director Jim McGraw said Stammeyer is a member of St. Joseph church but doesn't have to abstain on votes related to funding for church projects.
"I totally agree with that," Stammeyer said.
Director Les Shields said that means he could score and vote on a grant request from the Clinton airport even though he's vice chairman of the municipal airport commission.
"If there's a financial gain, that's a concern, and we need to be very transparent," Stammeyer said.
Stammeyer said it's good Tubbs and Fullerton abstained from the vote to fund the railport project even if not required under the policy.
"This policy reminds us we have to look for the good of all the citizens of the county, not just our own interests," McGraw said.
Drink limit policy questioned
Director McGraw questioned Wild Rose representative Gus Linke on the purpose of a policy limiting casino guests to one drink per half hour and whether it is based on a state law.
Linke said there is no state law requiring the limit, but the casino can face fines if a guest is found intoxicated on the gaming floor.
"The 30-minute limit is something we've had in place a long time. If we get caught with an intoxicated person on the floor, the fine is huge," he said.
McGraw said the rule of one drink per person is frustrating because it prevents people from purchasing a round of drinks for a group. He asked if Wild Rose Casino's other property is under the same rules and was told it is.
"It's a liquor license, and they have an obligation to ensure people aren't served to the point of intoxication," Wild Rose representative Chris Turner said.
"The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission says you can't gamble if you're intoxicated. You can gamble if you're stupid, but not if you're drunk," he said.
Turner said the policy is in place to protect the casino's license and noted Wild Rose is policed by three agencies - the racing and gaming commission, the state alcoholic beverages division and the Department of Criminal Investigations.
"I think with that you wouldn't need to police so much," McGraw said.
Linke asked McGraw if he would run his business differently if there were four police officers in the building, and McGraw said no.
Director Stammeyer said an important difference is the casino may be dealing with poly-drug use, such as patrons drinking on top of a prescription anti-depressant, which can leave them impaired but below the legal limit for alcohol consumption.
Another factor is the combination of emotion and the potential for losing money, he said.
"If I can go to the Isle (of Capri) and have two drinks in 30 minutes, why not here?" McGraw asked.
"We don't want to take that risk," Linke said.
The fine for an intoxication violation is $25,000, Linke said, and he noted the Isle of Capri is a much bigger operation that can more easily handle a large fine.
Director Tubbs asked if the Wild Rose has incurred the penalty at the Clinton casino. Linke said it has.
"I think it has saved (Wild Rose) more than it has hurt them," Turner said.
The policy has protected Wild Rose in cases of drunk-driving accidents when security tapes were reviewed and showed the casino was not over-serving customers.
"Now we can say we're doing our best to prevent it," he said.
Turner said he has worked at casinos where there is no drink limit and doesn't like the environment.
Director Schnepel asked if organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving are aware of the Wild Rose policy.
"I think it's a good policy and good to publicize," she said.
In other business, the board:
Approved a request from the Clinton County Agricultural Society to expand the scope of work for a previously awarded grant of $24,000 because the cost of the original project was less than expected.
The grant was for the replacement of one roof and lights on a livestock building at the county fairgrounds. The scope was expanded to include replacement of an additional roof.
Discussed extending the application deadline for Fund A grants but reached consensus to maintain the original deadline and to review applications in May for action at the May 15 board meeting.
Was informed March was the casino's best month of the year to date with revenue of $3.5 million.
Revenue is down 5 percent over last year, and admissions are down 1 percent. Linke said admissions numbers are starting to stabilize. Statewide and regional admissions at gaming properties are up 1 percent overall.
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