Friday, November 6, 2009

Twin River seeks to hire former R.I. Lottery lawyer

By Paul Grimaldi

Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE — The lenders in control of the Twin River greyhound track and slot parlor have asked a federal judge for permission to hire the former legal counsel for the Rhode Island Lottery as a government-relations consultant, according to a court filing.

Robert M. Silva was the Lottery’s lawyer for 16 years, before retiring in May 2008, according to the Nov. 4 filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Providence. During that time, “Silva was intimately involved in a number of transactions between the [Rhode Island] Lottery and [the slot parlor], including the transfer of the [slot parlor’s] video lottery terminal license from its prior holder” in 2005.

The company that operates Twin River, UTGR Inc., filed for federal bankruptcy protection in June. It appears Silva’s hiring would be consistent with the state’s code of ethics, which generally prevents state employees from representing themselves or others before their former departments for one year after their state employment ends.

As the Lottery’s lawyer, Silva would not have been required to file financial disclosure statements with the state ethics commission, according to Jason Gramitt, staff lawyer with the Ethics Commission. There appear to be no rulings involving Silva on record.

The executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Rhode Island, John M. Marion, said Silva “satisfied the revolving door [prohibition]. He’s been out a year. He can make the jump.”

UTGR is a subsidiary of BLB Investors, a holding company made up of Kerzner International, Starwood Capital Group and Waterford Group LLC.

UTGR owed nearly $568 million to banks and other creditors, but had only $56.6 million in assets, when it filed for bankruptcy protection. Merrill Lynch Capital Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase Bank are among the lenders to whom it owes money.

Twin River’s lenders will pay Silva $5,000 month, plus expenses, to lobby state officials on the slot parlor’s behalf.

Lottery Director Gerald Aubin said yesterday that he last met with Silva sometime in late summer when the two men had lunch together.

Silva gave him no indication at that time that he was under consideration for a job associated with Twin River.

What’s unclear at this point is what legal spadework Silva may have done that could lead Twin River to become more profitable after he left his job.

“What did he do to position Twin River that now they can try to hire him?” Marion asked.

The request goes before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur N. Votolato on Nov. 17.

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