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Court Must Decide on Lawyer's Ethics Under Slots Regulation

On March 28, 2007, the State Ethics Commission said that a regulation that does not allow the employees from the State Gambling Regulatory Organization to transfer into casino industry related jobs, applies not only to top level offices, but to ordinary commission employees as well.

However, the Ethics Panel commented that they lack power to rule out on whether the law applies to lawyers also because they are under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Thus, it will be up to Ms. Michelle Afragola, the former Deputy Director for the Regulatory Review of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, to ask for a court decision on whether she will have to wait for one year before getting employed in a casino in Pennsylvania.

John J. Bulger, the Ethics Commission Vice Chairman, said that they will be letting the courts decide on the matter. Ms. Afragola, who left the gaming board on January 26, 2007 and moved to the state of Connecticut, did not join the commission's hearing.

In her statement filed with the Ethics Commission, she challenged the state's slot machine law which prohibits ex-gaming board employees from taking part in the gambling industry for a year if they are involved in licensing, enforcement and making regulations in their former job.

Afragola said that the law should not apply to former gaming board employees like her who do not have sufficient authority to make any major decisions. The law will also wrongfully prohibit her from working as a lawyer in a different state.

Nonetheless, the members of the Ethics Commission disagree with her, saying that the legislature meant for the law they passed to apply not only to the top officials of the gaming board. However, they did concede the point that they do not have any power to decide on whether the law applies to lawyers or not.

The 1 year prohibition aims to prevent former gaming board employees from making any decisions that would be in favor of casino organizations which could enhance their own careers.

Afragola, a member of the Bar Association in Connecticut, did not write down any actual plans on her filings with the commission. But the state of Connecticut is the base of the Mohegan Indian Tribe, which operates a casino slots and race track in Pennsylvania and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which has already received permission to construct the Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia.


Sunday, 15 April 2007
Marissa Patterson