The revolving door at the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board continues to churn out lawyers who sweeten their pot by immediately representing casino interests. The latest example is Frank T. Donaghue, who has been the interim deputy executive director of the gaming board since May 2009. Prior to that, Donaghue spent a year as the board’s acting executive director.
Donaghue knows the legal ins and outs at the gaming board as well as all of the players. He was also the first chief counsel to the board, starting in 2006. Even better, Donaghue was a law clerk for state Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, who is busy these days trying to figure out what happened to $12 million that he was overseeing for the proposed new Family Court building.
All that should make Donaghue perfectly suited in his new role as an attorney at Ballard Spahr, where he will handle gaming issues among other duties. Ballard represents several clients with matters before the gaming board. Of course, any legal issues involving the casinos are mandated by law to go straight to the state Supreme Court, headed by Castille, and bypass lower courts.
Best of all for Donaghue’s clients, he is expected to start work on June 23. The gaming law has a provision that requires gaming board employees to wait one year before working for a licensed casino operator. But the provision doesn’t apply to lawyers. By comparison, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission requires employees who leave — including lawyers — to wait at least two years before going to work for a casino company licensed by the agency.
Such a ban wouldn’t apply to Donaghue, since he won’t be employed directly by a casino company. But the appearance of impropriety caused by his walking out the door for the board to represent the other side on gambling issues further undermines public confidence in the state’s dubious oversight of the gaming industry.