Was Wynn Resort's CEO Matthew Maddox really as unclear as he claims?
That's one of the questions that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has to answer as it weighs on the company that has everything but finished building a new casino in Everett, capable of retaining it.
There have been serious doubts since January 2018, when The Wall Street Journal revealed several allegations of harassment and serious sexual misconception against basic director Steve Wynn, whom company officials covered.
Sitting before the commissioners in last week's hearings, Maddox said he did not honor the claims against Wynn when history first broke. Instead, Maddox said he first believed that the many people interviewed by Journal lied to each other to help Wynn's former wife Elaine, who was in a bitter dispute with the casino magnate.
Rejecting so many credible claims would have been poor enough in recent years. But in order to do so in 2018, it appears to be an accomplishment of remarkable denial – or dishonesty. This was months after the allegations of sexual assault and harassment by producer Harvey Weinstein ultimately gave credibility to women who claimed abuse of strong men, a cultural breakthrough that launched the # MeToo movement.
Maddox, then president of Wynn Resorts and his future CEO, who was close to his boss personally, said he had been denied.
"I know how ridiculous it sounds," Maddox told the commissioners.
No kidding. Amazing would be another take. Maddox had heard previous claims of sinister behavior against Wynn's employees, but he did not seem to have found them very worrying. Wynn, 77, who has since resigned from the company, has determined that any sexual contact with employees, including those he paid to settlements, was consensual.
Maddox apparently believed him, at least in the beginning. That's partly because his colleagues who knew more had kept him out of the loop, he told regulators.
"What does it say about your leadership," Commissioner Gayle Cameron asked. Maddox said those who protect Wynn would hide the truth from Maddox because he is "known as a very straight arrow."
"One they can walk around," said Cameron, one of several on the panel that raked Maddox over the bullets. The very right arrow, however, was to allow someone to spy on a former employee who had been quoted in the Journal story, although Maddox said he later thought it was better.
The CEO has a lot to reconsider and regret. He said he is very sorry for not taking the allegations seriously at first, but how much credit can we give his pollution? He says the company has changed fundamentally, with new leaders getting it, and policies to keep workers safer.
But why should we trust him as a change agent? If we take him to his word that he had nothing to do with Wynn's wrongdoing, he seems to have been out of touch. Is a company led by someone so easily come around the battle you want to run a $ 2.6 billion casino? Especially when the hope of so many in the Commonwealth depends on success?
Finally, there are those hopes that will save Everett Casino for Wynn Resorts. The best argument for allowing the company to retain its lucrative license is now made, not by Wynn officials, but by the yellow Shangri-La who has risen on the Mystic River – and by the thousands of workers planning to work there, June.
This was always how it would be when the license was awarded and the ground was destroyed. The commission can claim Maddox's resignation, and pull out a big fine from the company that Nevada did. But there is no going back.
You must be fooled at this time if other shoes will drop. But the commissioners have little choice but to do this work.
They – and the rest of us – play at Wynn Resort's table. They must continue to roll the dice.
Globeskolonne Yvonne Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham .