State officials expressed concerns?Thursday?that a former Plainridge Racecourse official did not attend a key meeting regarding the completion of a background investigation for Plainridge, a contender for the sole slot parlor license under the state?s expanded gaming law.?
During a meeting in Boston, Massachusetts Gaming Commission officials said they were concerned that former chief financial officer Timothy Peterson, who resigned this week, was not on hand for questions about former track president Gary Piontkoski?s personal cash withdrawals from the track?s money room.
Piontkowski abruptly resigned in April, saying he had left the enterprise for health reasons. John Grogan, his successor, told commission officials that Peterson?s resignation this week was a ?total surprise.??
Karen Wells, MassGaming?s director of investigations and enforcement, said Ourway Realty majority owners Stanley Fulton, founder and operator of Anchor Gaming, and Alfred Ross appeared in position to fund the development of the slot parlor at the Plainville harness racetrack.
MassGaming investigators concluded in their report that while the commission will make the final decision on whether Plainridge?s team is suitable for a slots license, the applicant and its owners ?have the requisite financial stability, integrity and responsibility, the availability of suitable financial resources, have demonstrated sound business experience, good character and personal integrity.??
As for Piontkowski, former chair of the Mass. Racing Commission and the longtime ?public face? of Plainridge, Wells said he had routinely and almost daily withdrawn small amounts of cash from the track?s money room that ?amounted to a very large sum of money.? When the funds were not repaid, they were characterized as an ?accommodation? or a ?distribution? to the former track president. In their report, investigators redacted the amount of reported distributions to Piontkowski from 2004 to 2011. Wells also told commissioners Piontkowski had once advised an employee ?never write anything down.??
Investigators questioned Peterson during the course of their work. Addressing Piontkowski?s alleged conduct, investigators ?found that Peterson testified in a credible fashion that he was uncomfortable with this particular business practice of his boss, tried to bring it to the attention of the Members through the audit letters but was not in a position to stop this practice.??
Investigators reported that Grogan, who lives in Westwood and was an investment banker for 25 years, has implemented new internal controls to address ?past shortcomings in the applicant operation.??
Grogan said he understands that Plainridge must present ?clear and convincing evidence? that the track is a suitable slot license applicant. He did not dispute findings of deficiencies in the track?s operation.
Grogan also said the investigation into the money room resulted in Piontkowski?s resignation.?
?He has no contact, influence or involvement in the company right now,? said Grogan, who testified?Thursdaywith attorneys from Foley Hoag.
Probing the integrity of the applicants, commission officials spent considerable time raising questions about financial arrangements made by the slots license applicant with Piontkowski as he left the company. Grogan said conversations with Piontkowski about his departure were ?extraordinarily difficult.?
In an April press release announcing his retirement, the track reported that Piontkowski ?looks forward to spending more time with his wife? and two daughters and ?will concentrate on his health." Piontkowski said at the time in a statement, "This has been a long journey, requiring intense effort. I am deeply grateful to my business partners at Plainridge for their faith and support as well as for their understanding for this personal decision."