December 2003

December 18, 2003

Wind storm knocks power out on city’s East Side

Strong winds swept through Bangor early Thursday morning, knocking out power in some parts of the city at about 1 a.m.

After a day of temperatures in the upper-30s and light rain Wednesday, the temperature rose to 50 degrees shortly before midnight and remained there for several hours. The increase in temperature caused two fronts to collide, stirring up a sustained wind of 38 mph, with gusts up to 53 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

One part of the city’s east side lost power shortly after 1 a.m. The outage lasted about 45 minutes, but strong winds continued. The winds subsided at about 3 a.m. before raging again about 90 minutes later.

As of 5 a.m., the temperature in Bangor had dropped to 45 degrees. The wind speed had dropped to 22 mph, with gusts down to 32 mph.

The mild temperatures, rain and wind came only 48 hours after a nor’easter dropped 22 inches of snow in the Queen City Sunday night through Monday. Since Dec. 1, Bangor has received 31 ½ inches of snow – 25 inches above normal for this time. The city has also received 4.51 inches of rain since the beginning of the month – 2.65 inches above normal.

December 15, 2003

Capital Seven continues legal maneuvering

Harness Racing Commission hearings set to begin today

Citing a “spirit of cooperation,” Capital Seven and Bangor Raceway owner Shawn Scott announced Friday that he would not open a slot machine parlor at Bass Park until Feb. 23.

Workers from Cianbro have been working quickly in the last couple of weeks to renovate the Bass Park grandstand’s interior so the grandstand can accommodate 250 slot machines. The project is expected to cost $400,000.

Maine voters approved legislation last month that legalized slot machines at Bass Park. Gov. John Baldacci signed the election proclamation on Dec. 3, but signed an order delaying the law from taking effect until 45 days after the Legislature convenes on Jan. 7. Normally, the law would have taken effect 30 days after Baldacci’s signature, but the governor invoked a clause in the Maine Constitution that allowed the delay because the legislation would end up costing the state more money than the slot machines would bring in.

Scott disagreed and vowed to open the parlor on Jan. 3, despite not having a permanent harness racing license and despite the possibility that the State Police would have seized the slot machines.

The Maine Harness Racing Commission is set to begin at 9 a.m. today what will likely be a lengthy set of hearings to determine whether Scott should receive a permanent racing license, which Scott needs to operate slot machines.

The New York Racing and Wagering board announced Friday that it had rejected Scott’s bid for a permanent license to operate Vernon Downs, which Scott bought last year and turned into a racino, with 1,100 slot machines. Scott plans to have 1,500 slot machines at Bass Park.

In a statement, the board said that Scott’s involvement with New York’s gaming industry would be “inconsistent with the public interest” and inconsistent with the “best interests of racing generally.”

The New York board said Scott made false statements on his application. A report by the Maine Harness Racing Commission concluded that Scott had made false statements on gaming applications in New York and New Mexico.

Scott said Friday that he would appeal the New York decision.

On Wednesday, Capital Seven followed through on taking legal action to stop or void the results of a pending election in the southern Maine city of Westbrook. The owners of Scarborough Downs have asked residents of Westbrook to decide whether to approve a racino in their city. Scarborough voters rejected the racino on Election Day. The Westbrook vote is set for Dec. 30. Scarborough Downs has through Dec. 31 to find a city or town within 5 miles of the Downs that will welcome slot machines.

The actual plaintiffs in the suit against Westbrook are John and Carol Peters. Capital Seven is paying the couple’s legal expenses because the company has no legal standing in Westbrook to sue.

The suit seeks to stop or throw out the results of the Dec. 30 referendum because, according to Capital Seven, the racino law does not allow racetracks to move to a location that will allow slot machines. The suit also claims that the Westbrook City Council’s approval of the referendum was made without the signature of the city’s mayor and that state law required the referendum to be on file in the city clerk’s office at least 45 days before the vote.

Capital Seven is seeking to thwart Scarborough Downs’ attempt to open a racino because Downs officials supposedly pulled out of a contract that would have made Scott a partner.

“We made it clear that we’ll do anything to work against them,” Capital Seven Executive Vice President David Nealley told The Associated Press Thursday. Nealley is also a Bangor city councilor.

On Monday, Capital Seven had a groundbreaking ceremony inside the Bass Park grandstand, attended by Scott’s mother, Victoria.

“Against great adversity, we continue to move forward for Maine’s harness racing industry,” Nealley was quoted as saying in the Bangor Daily News.

After the ceremony, an estimated 300 people attended a job fair at a nearby hotel, where they filled out applications and were interviewed for the proposed racino’s first 100 jobs.

On Wednesday, Gov. Baldacci unveiled legislation designed to tweak the racino legislation Maine voters approved last month. His proposal included calls for creating a gaming commission to handle licensing of slot machines, instead of the racing commission; making licensing of slot machines a separate matter from licensing racetracks; limiting the number of slot machines a license holder could operate.

He did not propose extending the deadline for communities within 5 miles of Scarborough Downs to approve slot machines. Some Republicans in the Legislature wanted an extension for the Downs. And despite not wanting slot machines, Baldacci did not ask the Legislature either to rescind the racino legislation altogether or send it back to voters in the June primary election.

Why the racing commission should say ‘no’ to Shawn Scott

We here in Maine don’t like outsiders by nature. We’re shy that way. We like to do things our own way and on our own timetable. We’re also straight-shooters. We value honesty. We also value cooperation – amongst ourselves, that is.

Shawn Scott has shown himself to be a vindictive man who cares not for a dying industry but for his wallet. He rode in from the West after learning that Bangor was looking to build a new auditorium and civic center but didn’t have any money. He saw an opportunity in a rundown Bass Park, which years ago had been the focal point of entertainment and recreation in the Queen City. Bass Park had seen better days, when thousands of people turned out for harness races, to watch baseball games in the racetrack’s infield, or to enjoy the nearing end of summer on the midway of the state fair.

The City Council couldn’t help itself when it imagined the windfall of money that Scott promised the city it could make by building a casino at Bass Park. For all intents and purposes, a racino is a casino. It has slot machines and lacks only table games, which the races make up for.

Scott pledged to invest $30 million into the park and turn it into a destination for old ladies hoping to multiply their Social Security checks or the poor who were hopelessly looking for instant financial freedom.

To show his commitment to helping to revive the dying harness racing industry, Scott promised to help bring a racino to Scarborough Downs, Maine’s only other full-time racetrack. He even signed an agreement with the owners and managers of Downs pledging to work together. In return, others in the industry pledged to support Scott’s bid to bring a racino to the Queen City.

But apparently Scott thought that Scarborough Downs would be so thankful for his bankrolling a statewide racino vote that it would let him become a partner. When Scarborough Downs officials said no thanks, Scott turned on them, stooping so low as to create a political action committee that took out ads in southern Maine newspapers urging voters there to reject a racino for Scarborough on moral grounds. Scott then sued Scarborough Downs, claiming that the track’s officials broke an oral agreement that would have made him a partner in that track’s racino plans.

Scott denied any involvement in the PAC. A spokesperson suggested that racino opponents had tried to sabotage his quest to get a racing license by forging a fax number that belonged to two of his company’s subsidiaries.

And then Scott admitted that he was involved – without knowing it. He said overzealous employees had created the PAC without his knowledge or consent and that he had ordered the PAC dissolved.

Yet not long after Scott’s denials, Capital Seven formed a second PAC and made no secret that it was working against a racino in southern Maine.

We here in Maine don’t like those who say one thing out of one corner of their mouth but say another out of the other corner.

The racing commission should deny Scott a license because he has not shown himself to be an honest or trustworthy man. He lied about his involvement with the PAC, and he doesn’t even seem to care that others know he lied. A note to Scott: If you’re going to deny any involvement with a PAC and claim you did not agree with it, you don’t turn around two weeks later and openly create a second PAC. We here in Maine are not stupid.

Scott does not care about the racing industry in this state. If he did, he would be working with the officials at Scarborough Downs to bring a racino to southern Maine. But he wants a piece of the pie in southern Maine, and like a child whose mother won’t let him have any more cookies, he is sulking and threatening to break the cookie jar.

The racino legislation that Maine voters passed, 53 percent to 47 percent, on Election Day does little to help the racing industry. A whopping 75 percent of the revenues from slot machines would go to the racino owners and operators. That’s at least 10 percent more than racino legislation in any other state allows.

Scott’s presence in the state’s racing community would become a blight. It already is a blight. Scott is suing Scarborough Downs. He is threatening to sue the three Bangor city councilors who voted against the racino deal because they won’t “assist” him in getting a permanent racing license. He sued the state in a failed attempt to keep the results of his background check secret. And now he is threatening two more lawsuits, against the cities of Westbrook and Saco. The two cities will hold referendums on Dec. 30 that will ask their voters whether they want a racino, which Scarborough Downs would build. On Election Day last month, Scarborough voters refused to repeal an ordinance banning slot machines.

That Scott is suing, or threatening to sue, anyone who won’t help him is amusing enough. But his reasons for threatening to sue Westbrook and Saco are hilarious. Scott claims that Scarborough Downs cannot build a new racetrack, even though the legislation – which Scott wrote – allows racetracks to move no more than 5 miles from the middle of the existing tracks.

How does Scott propose answering the inevitable question at such a trial: Didn’t you take out an option on land in Brewer to build a racetrack there in case the Bangor City Council said no to you? If Scarborough Downs can’t move, why could you?

Scott also claims that state law requires a local referendum to be on file with a city’s clerk at least 45 days before the election.

So how does Scott explain his push to get the Brewer City Council to put the racino question on that city’s ballot only a month before Election Day?

An employee of Scott’s told Gambling magazine in its Dec. 16, 2001, issue that Scott isn’t a crook, he’s just “flaky.”

The evidence says otherwise, but let’s agree for a minute that Scott is flaky. Does Maine want a flake to be involved in handling millions of dollars from lost souls who are doomed to think they can become rich instantly and handling hundreds of thousands of dollars that dozens of drivers, horse owners and trainers, among others will depend on for a livelihood?

A flake may not be a crook. But at the very least he is incompetent. Incompetent people should not have the trust of the state when it comes to running a clean operation of such a magnitude. Scott’s background includes involvements with not just one or two poorly managed gambling operations but several.

Scott is not a flake. Whether he’s a crook remains to be seen. He has been the subject of 32 lawsuits in the last few years, most of which accuse him of failing to follow through on debts. We do know that he tried to tell the racing commission that he owned only a 49 percent share of Bangor Raceway even though he paid 96 percent of the management company’s $1.1 million price tag. When he announced he was buying the track management company, he said he would buy 49 percent first, then another 49 percent a year later. Then he told the local media that he had gone ahead and bought more than 50 percent immediately.

Either the man is extremely flaky or he is a slick trader from Vegas who doesn’t do well at covering his tracks.

Let’s hope the racing commission doesn’t fall into a coma or suffer an ill-timed case of amnesia as Scott’s attorneys try to do more circles around the truth, whatever the truth might be.

December 8, 2003

Racino developer’s background shady

Misleading statements, financial troubles and lawsuits shroud Shawn Scott

Capital Seven says it will open a slot machine parlor at Bass Park on Jan. 3. However, Gov. John Baldacci, shown here, has invoked little-known clause in the state constitution that would delay the racino law from taking effect until 45 days after the Legislature convenes on Jan. 7.
A scathing report on Capital Seven owner Shawn Scott by the Maine Harness Racing Commission will likely have the Las Vegas developer who wants to build a racino in Bangor explaining a lot. The commission is scheduled to begin a hearing on Dec. 15 on whether to grant Scott a permanent harness racing license. Scott, who holds a temporary, or conditional, license, needs a permanent one before he can bring slot machines to Bass Park.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court late Thursday denied Scott’s attempt to keep the Harness Racing Commission’s report private. Several news media outlets had filed a state right-to-know request to see the results of the commission’s background investigation of Scott. Scott sought an injunction in Kennebec County Superior Court before Thanksgiving, but lost. He then appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court. He argued that releasing the information the racing commission had collected would violate his and his family’s privacy and cause him irreparable harm.

In denying Scott’s appeal, the supreme court said Scott had failed to identify any information whose release would harm him or his family, or how any of the information would harm him.

Shortly after the supreme court’s ruling, the state released a 32-page draft report by the racing commission that summarized Scott’s background check. According to the report, Scott:

• Failed to notify the racing commission that he owned a 96 percent share in Bangor Historic Raceway, the company that actually operates the racetrack at Bass Park. Scott claimed he owned 49 percent of the company. The racing commission had told him he needed to re-apply for his permanent license once he owned a majority stake. An accountant for the racing commission found that Scott had paid 96 percent of Bangor Raceway’s $1.1 million value.

• Answered “no” to questions on New York and New Mexico gaming applications to questions that asked whether he had ever had a gaming license revoked, suspended or denied by a public body. In 1997, South Carolina rejected seven applications from a company Scott owned a stake in because of delinquent property taxes.

• Has owned stock in companies that have had a total of 13 liens placed on them, plus four tax liens and one bankruptcy.

• Did not cooperate fully with gaming officials in New York and Louisiana when he applied for licenses in those states.

• Has been involved with companies that “have demonstrated sloppy, if not irresponsible, financial management and accounting practices over several years.”

• Has been the subject of 32 lawsuits.

In addition, the report disclosed that Capital Seven Chief Executive Hoolae Paoa has a history of criminal convictions that date from 1978 to 1997 that include assault, felony theft and criminal contempt of court. Capital Seven has claimed that Paoa is only a consultant, but he was listed as an executive in the 2003 Bangor Raceway racing program.

Despite the apparent growing uncertainty of whether Scott will get the license he needs to open a racino at Bass Park, he has moved forward with renovations to the Bass Park grandstand so it can accommodate 250 slot machines to start. Workers from Cianbro began work on the grandstand last week. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for today at 11 a.m., with a job fair to follow at a nearby hotel on Main Street.

“While we are disappointed in the court’s decision, we respect the court’s ruling,” Capital Seven spokeswoman Christen Graham told the Portland Press Herald in the paper’s Friday issue. “Capital Seven will proceed with its plans to open a slot machine facility in Bangor on Jan. 3, 2004.”

But before Scott can even bring slot machines into the state, he must get his permanent racing license. Also, in affirming the results of the Nov. 4 election, Gov. John Baldacci declared that the racino law would not take effect for at least 45 days after the Legislature convenes. Scott’s attorneys say the law will take effect 30 days after Baldacci signed the election results proclamation, which was on Dec. 3. Baldacci, who opposed both the casino and racino referendum questions, says the state constitution allows for the 45-day provision because the racino bill’s costs are more than its revenues. The racino legislation charged the Harness Racing Commission with enforcing the measure. Baldacci and other critics of the legislation say the commission has no experience or resources to handle enforcement. The governor wants the Legislature to amend the legislation to provide for a gaming commission that would enforce the law.

Last week Capital Seven sent the racing commission checks totaling $4,500 to cover a slots application fee and slot machine fee. The state returned the checks with a letter that said the application was “premature” because the law legalizing slots had not taken effect yet.

In addition to pushing ahead with plans to open a racino as soon as possible, Scott has now made it no secret that he wants to foil plans for a racino in southern Maine that would be owned by Scarborough Downs. When the Portland Press Herald noticed that the fax number for a political action committee formed to defeat a southern Maine racino matched the fax number for two Capital Seven subsidiaries, Scott denied being involved. He then said that overzealous employees had created the PAC without his knowledge or permission and that he had ordered the PAC disbanded.

A new PAC has emerged, however, and this time Capital Seven has made it no secret that it is behind it. The new PAC is Maine Opportunities.

This past summer, Scott signed an agreement with the owners of Scarborough Downs and members of the harness racing industry pledging to support the creation of racinos in Bangor and Scarborough. Scott filed a lawsuit against Scarborough Downs last month, accusing the track’s owners of breaking an oral agreement that would have made him a partner in that track’s quest for a racino. Downs officials say they made no such agreement.

City councilors at odds over racino

City councilor Gerry Palmer has said he supports the racino concept. Council chairman Dan Tremble says he does, too. They just don’t think that Shawn Scott is the right person to own or operate a racino in the Queen City. Palmer and Tremble, along with Annie Allen, were the three councilors who voted against entering a development deal with Capital Seven, Scott’s company.

Palmer and Allen have signed a petition that would ask Bangor voters in the next election whether the city should sever its relationship with Scott. Tremble called a special session of the City Council last Monday so councilors could hear alternative development proposals from three companies that want to take over the Bass Park racino project if the Harness Racing Commission rejects Scott’s bid to run the racino.

The three councilors’ actions have raised the ire of Capital Seven, including councilor David Nealley, who works for the company and was named an executive recently. Shortly after attorneys for Scott issued a statement threatening legal action against the City Council if it failed to support Scott’s bid for a permanent racing license, Nealley contacted the local news media and repeated the company’s threat.

Nealley told the Maine Sunday Telegram in the paper’s Sunday issue that he had been asked to deliver the threat against his colleagues on the council through the local media. He has since had second thoughts about his role in the matter.

“It would have been easier and better if another spokesperson delivered the message,” he said.

The city’s ethics board will soon look at whether Nealley’s relationship with Shawn Scott interferes with his duties as a city councilor. Tremble has said Nealley needs to decide whether he is a city councilor or an employee of Capital Seven and that Nealley can’t be both because of the stakes involved.

Nealley did not participate in the deliberations or vote that gave Capital Seven the Bass Park development deal.

Aside from the thorny issue of Nealley’s relationships with Capital Seven and City Hall, at least one city councilor has said he caved in to the pressure of possibly losing the racino to Brewer.

Although the Harness Racing Commission’s report on Shawn Scott and Capital Seven became public Thursday, Bangor city councilors received the report in September, weeks before they voted in whether to give Scott the development contract.

John Rohman, a former chairman of the City Council, told the Bangor Daily News in Saturday’s issue that he didn’t “dissect” the report on Scott before voting.

“I think we were rushed at the end,” he said, acknowledging that the prospect of losing harness racing to Brewer played a part in his vote to give Scott the development contract.

First nor’easter of season wallops Queen City

The snow began falling mid-afternoon Saturday and continued through Sunday night, accompanied by wind gusts that pounded house windows and blew snow everywhere. And through it all, public works crews pushed, scraped, and blew snow off the city’s streets, sidewalks and parking lots into early Monday morning.

The first nor’easter of the season brought 2 inches of snow Saturday and a record 9 inches Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. The average wind speed Sunday was 23 mph, with a highest sustained wind speed of 31 mph and highest gust speed of 39 mph.

Most car crashes caused in part by the storm involved only property damage, with no major injuries, according to the Maine State Police Orono barracks.

The forecast for the rest of the week is calling for calmer weather and milder temperatures that might reach the upper-40s by the end of the week.


Maine road condition reports:

Winter driving tips

December 1, 2003

More doubts emerge about racino developer

Shawn Scott is suing Scarborough Downs and threatening to sue Bangor

Developer tied to PAC that opposed slots in southern Maine after Downs rebuffed him

Bangor City Councilors and members of Maine's harness racing industry have expressed doubts publicly in the last week that Las Vegas developer Shawn Scott should develop a racino in Bangor. The doubts come after the Portland Press Herald noticed that the fax number for the political action committee Good Morals for Maine shared a fax number with two Capital Seven subsidiaries. Capital Seven is the company Scott formed to pitch and develop a racino at Bangor’s Bass Park. It owns a 49 percent share of Bangor Historic Raceway.

This past summer Capital Seven signed an agreement with the owner of Scarborough Downs and the Maine Horseman’s Association to help bring slot machines to Scarborough and Bangor, Maine’s only full-time harness racing tracks. However, just days before Maine voters voted on whether to allow slot machines at the tracks, a mysterious PAC called Good Morals for Maine launched an ad campaign in southern Maine newspapers urging voters to reject slot machines at Scarborough.

Scott denied any knowledge or involvement with the PAC when the Portland Press Herald reported Tuesday that the PAC had the same fax number on its state PAC application as two Capital Seven subsidiaries. But less than 48 hours after the report, he said that two of his employees had created the PAC without his consent.

Also, Scott filed a lawsuit last week against Scarborough Downs, the track’s officials of breaching an oral contract that would have made him an investor in that track’s quest to install slot machines. Although Maine voters approved of slot machines on Election Day, Scarborough voters said “no thanks” at the polls. Scarborough Downs has through Dec. 31 to convince voters in at least one town within 5 miles of the center of the track to allow slot machines. The Saco City Council voted against putting the matter out for a referendum, but Westbrook’s city council voted to let their residents decide.

Scarborough Downs officials say they made no agreement to make Scott a partner and that Scott dissed them when his attorneys were writing the racino bill that voters decided on last month. In the original draft of the bill, the Scarborough track officials say, the state’s tracks would have had through Dec. 31, 2004, to get voter approval from their communities. Anticipating that getting Scarborough voters to reverse a city ordinance against slot machines would be difficult, Downs officials asked Scott to extend the deadline to Dec. 31, 2005. Instead, Scott shortened the deadline to Dec. 31 this year.

The Bangor City Council voted 5-3 on Oct. 30 to sign an agreement with Capital Seven to redevelop Bass Park. However, before Capital Seven can install slot machines, it must get a permanent harness racing license from the state. The Maine Harness Racing Commission is set to vote on Scott’s application on Dec. 15.

The licensing process includes a lengthy background check by the Maine Attorney General’s Office, to ensure that applicants are of good moral character and are financially responsible. Scott wants to keep the results of the background check private, at least until the racing commission meets on Dec. 15. A Kennebec County Superior Court judge denied last Monday Scott’s bid to prevent the state from releasing the information, but Scott appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which promptly issued a temporary restraining order pending the outcome of a hearing scheduled for this afternoon in Portland.

Scott’s attorneys say that releasing the background information could embarrass the Scott family and create a hostile political climate that could affect the racing commission’s ability to judge Scott’s racing license application impartially.

Scott’s apparent involvement to undermine the Scarborough track’s bid to get slot machines has caused doubt in the minds of some members of the harness racing industry of whether he’s honest in saying he wants to help revive the industry statewide. They question whether Scott’s motivation is pure greed.

Capital Seven Executive Vice President David Nealley – a Bangor city councilor – told WABI-TV Saturday that recent questions about Scott’s background and ethics are attempts to kill the developer by those who know they can’t kill the racino project.

The increased scrutiny of Scott has prompted the Bangor City Council’s Strategic Issues Committee to develop a backup plan in case the harness racing commission rejects Scott’s application. Council Chairman Dan Tremble has invited a representative from Kehl Management to attend the committee’s meeting Monday. Kehl Management, from Iowa, made a last-minute development pitch to the City Council before the Council signed with Capital Seven.

Attorneys for Scott have since threatened to sue the City Council if the Council fails to support Scott’s bid for a permanent racing license, according to a WABI-TV report Sunday.