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. Before that, Donaghue spent a year as the board's acting executive director.
Apparently, people come and go so quickly at the gaming board that there isn't time to give some of them a permanent title.
More important, 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 to his new role as a lawyer 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 of the board to represent the other side on gambling issues further undermines public confidence in the state's dubious oversight of the gaming industry.
Indeed, other lawyers who played key roles in the selection and regulation of casinos have also left to represent those same casinos just days after leaving the board.
So, Donaghue won't be the first high-level gaming board employee to turn around and represent the casino interests before the state. And, sadly, it's a pretty sure bet he won't be the last.