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Casino foundation reputation at stake


The Gazette

August 18, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

Public confidence in the integrity of the government is indispensable to faith in democracy; and when we lose faith in the system, we have lost faith in everything we fight and spend for.
  ó Adlai Stevenson

In estimating every manís value either in private or public life, a pure integrity is the quality we take first into calculation, and that learning and talents are only the second.
  ó Thomas Jefferson

  Stevenson spoke of government and Jefferson of an individual. But what both were saying applies equally to almost any person, any business, any organization. Integrity is everything. Without it, you donít have much.

  Folks involved with the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort should be all smiles right now with the opening of their project just days away. Instead, they are facing public scrutiny about a relationship that looks too cozy between the casinoís operators and the board of directors of the Washington County Riverboat Foundation, which holds the license for the casino.

  It behooves the foundation board and casino management to go out of their way to make sure they are publicly perceived as free of even the appearance of conflicts of interest. This isnít about merely following the law. Itís about doing the things that will build and protect the reputation of the casino, and especially of the foundation that area residents are counting on to fairly distribute an estimated $3.2 million a year to local governments and community improvement projects and programs.

  Two major issues should be of concern.

  First, close family ties exist between those running the casino and those serving on the foundationís board of directors. In one case, a husband serves on the board of directors for the casino, while his wife serves on the foundation board of directors. In a small town, there are inevitably going to be such conflicts because a small core of people are relied upon to do so many things. But if such appearances of conflict are inevitable, then it is correspondingly important that the foundation goes out of its way to ensure everything is done with the greatest level of integrity.

  The second issue is where the two entities do their banking. The casino already has chosen to bank at Peoples Trust & Savings Bank in Riverside. Timothy Putney, chairman of the foundation, has said his board hasnít chosen a bank yet, but likely will also bank at Peoples Trust & Savings.

  Putney is president and chief operating officer of Peoples Trust & Savings. By itself, thereís nothing unusual in that relationship. Bank officers make terrific board members of non-profit organizations, and many of them serve as board officers. It is critical that a foundation have a clear policy on how its board chooses where it will do its banking. Make sure itís that criteria, and not the position of the board president, that drives a transparent decision on what bank is used.