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Massachusetts Taxpayers File Suit to Stop MBTA-Wynn Secret Land Deal

Boston, July 6, 2015 – Today thirty taxpayers from across the Commonwealth filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts Superior Court challenging the sale of MBTA property in Everett to Steve Wynn and Wynn Casinos. The complaint asserts that the MBTA failed to comply with the state public bidding law with respect to the land the MBTA proposed to sell to Wynn for the casino. The MBTA and Steve Wynn conducted private negotiations and agreed upon terms of the sale of the land without making the land available to other bidders or determining whether the land was needed now or would be in the future. The embattled MBTA even ignored the pleadings of the MBTA operations staff, who, in more than one communication with superiors, implored the MBTA not to sell the land, including in an email obtained through public records request in which MBTA staff stated that the sale of the land would create “an unsafe condition” on the property.

The complaint also describes how the MBTA land was sold for as much as 80% less than the fair market value. In records obtained by the plaintiffs, MassDOT, which oversees the MBTA, understood the land to be worth as much as $30 million. In another communication, Wynn expected to pay “eight (8) figures” for the land. Wynn subsequently agreed to purchase the land for only $6 million. The sale was critical to Wynn as the casino developer may not construct the proposed casino without the land, and Wynn was at risk of losing its gaming license if it could not lock up all real estate necessary for the proposed development by February of this year.

All transfers of publicly owned property to private individuals must follow a rigid and open process to ensure that the interests of the citizens of the Commonwealth are served in any such transactions. In this case, the MBTA negotiated and signed a deal before issuing any public notice or opportunity for competing bidders.

Plaintiff Ann Kelleher, a Charlestown resident remarked, “This deal was done behind closed doors and the only one who benefits from it is Steve Wynn. It is our responsibility to hold the MBTA and MassDOT accountable and that’s what this lawsuit is meant to do.”

Thomas O. Bean, lead attorney for the plaintiffs said, “Public entities such as the MBTA are required to strictly comply with the state public bidding law. The MBTA failed to do so, harming Massachusetts taxpayers.” Mr. Bean was successful last year in getting an initiative petition on the ballot to “Repeal the Casino Deal.”

“We were promised that casinos were going to benefit our state, that the Massachusetts law was the best in the country. Yet here we are discussing a deal where a multi-billionaire waltzed in and got an 80% discount, when the T has been facing budget shortfalls for years”, said John Ribeiro, former chairman of Repeal the Casino Deal. “It is up to The People to remain vigilant and to hold the casino industry and their regulators to the highest standards, and certainly to state law.” he concluded.

Please contact John Ribeiro with questions at 617-981-4177; johnfribeiro@gmail.com.

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