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Statehouse beat: The Greenbrier's casino open for 'special' lunches

Some follow-ups:

It's evident that, despite their assertions to state Lottery director John Musgrave, the management of The Greenbrier is flaunting state law by allowing visitors on day-trip bus tours to gain access to what is supposed to be the guests-only casino.

An associate of The Greenbrier sent this note: "Thank you for the story on ignored gambling regulations. The day it appeared in the Gazette, we hosted over 300 such people on bus tours here at the hotel. It happens every day. They do define lunch as an 'event.'"

The 2009 "historic resort gaming" law is clear about restricting access to the casino to overnight guests at the hotel, but provides an exception for persons attending conferences or conventions at The Greenbrier when the hotel is basically booked to capacity.

Last month, the Lottery Commission modified its regulations to expand that exception to persons attending special events at the resort, again if the hotel is booked to capacity, with a nod toward the Greenbrier Classic PGA golf tournament.

It was at that meeting that Musgrave made the now-ironic comment that the rule change would not open casino access to the general public: "We don't want buses pulling up and unloading folks just for the purpose of going to the casino."

I'm advised that the lunch provided by The Greenbrier for the day tours is not a formal, sit-down lunch, but a buffet -- hardly a "special event" as defined in the Lottery regulations.

Also, with one bus company offering 18 casino daytrips this month alone -- 14 on weekdays -- it seems implausible that the hotel is booked to capacity each day, as required by law to invoke the convention or special event exception.

The associate suggested the bus tours are indicative of the brazenness of Greenbrier management, adding, "They think they can get away with it over here, because they always do."

Indeed, in speaking with Greenbrier president Jeff Kmiec, he does believe the hotel is following the letter of the law by allowing the day tourists access to the casino, so long as they partake of another activity at the resort, be it the Bunker tour, the historic tour, or a buffet.

As for whether a buffet lunch is stretching the definition of "special event" beyond recognition, Kmiec commented, "Have you had the buffet lunch here? It's very special."

***

On the DHHR administrative imbroglio, it's interesting that there's not much dispute as to the facts at hand between the "press release" subpoena and the lawsuit filed against the DHHR by two of the three administrators placed on administrative leave.

Both sides seem clear that Susan Perry, Jennifer Taylor and John Law raised objections over the awarding of the $4 million advertising and public relations contract. The dispute seems to be over whether they were whistle-blowing because the bid evaluation process was so botched up or were trying to interfere with the awarding of the contract, although there is no evidence to date that any of the three would have personally benefited by awarding the contract to any company other than Fahlgren Mortine.

One point seems clear, however: Rocco Fuccillo had been a subordinate to Perry and Taylor before his promotion to acting DHHR secretary, and did not take well to their questioning of his newfound authority and apparently overreacted by imposing the now three-month long paid administrative leaves.

***

Finally, imagine my delight to get an email from Santa Claus, and not some fake department store Santa Claus, but the real thing -- at least legally.

Santa, who legally changed his name from Thomas O'Connor in 2005 (presumably because of his resemblance to the jolly old elf, as well as his work as an advocate for underprivileged children worldwide), thought I had been overly dismissive of his candidacy for president of the United States.

(I'd written that he was one of the write-in candidates certified by the Secretary of State's office to have their votes tabulated on Election Day.)

Santa suggested I visit his website, www.SantaClausforPresident.com, and Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/TheSantaClaus. (You would think Santa would know I don't Facebook ...)

"Unlike several of the other (write-in) candidates, I am registered with and recognized by the Federal Election Commission," Santa wrote.

"In addition to serving as an advocate for millions of vulnerable children and having received an international peace prize, as did the Dalai Lama, from the Santa Claus Peace Council in Turkey, I am a former special assistant to the deputy police commissioner of New York City (NYPD); director of the Terrorism Research and Communication Center; and member of FEMA's National Defense Executive Reserve," Santa concluded.

If elected, Santa has some intriguing prospects for his cabinet, including congressman and former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich for vice president, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow for White House chief of staff, author and anti-war activist Noam Chomsky for Secretary of Defense, and our own Darrell McGraw for Secretary of Agriculture.Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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