The newly appointed interim executive director of the state Gaming Commission abruptly resigned Wednesday night, saying that the “growing distractions’’ created by allegations of sexual abuse against him had made it impossible for him to be effective in the job.
In a message to the board, Carl Stanley McGee said that “after much personal thought’’ he had decided to step down to let the commission “get on with the important public business of job creation and economic development it was created to perform.’’
Board chairman Stephen Crosby, who had staunchly defended McGee’s appointment and had called the 2007 abuse allegations meritless and warrantless, said Wednesday night that he agreed with McGee’s decision.
He cited McGee’s “substantial knowledge and expertise’’ in gaming and policy making and his reputation among his peers, but concluded that “his serving in this role would impede the commission’s ability to accomplish its mission.’’
McGee is expected to return to his job as assistant secretary for policy and planning in the Patrick administration.
The resignation by McGee capped a day of mounting criticism over the decision by the board to offer him the job without thoroughly investigating the abuse allegations.
Only in its infancy, the state’s gambling commission has been beset by controversy and has been criticized for its slow and methodical pace. Now, after the commission made the hiring of McGee its first major decision, lawmakers are questioning whether the panel will properly evaluate potential employees in an industry that depends on public confidence.
Earlier Wednesday, state Treasurer Steve Grossman had called on McGee to resign, saying he was so compromised by the allegations he could not perform the job effectively.
“We’ve got 15,000 jobs and hundreds of millions of revenue at stake’’ in the gambling industry, said Grossman, who appoints one of the five members of the commission.
Before offering McGee the job, the commission should have painstakingly investigated his background, Grossman said. He pointed out that commission members themselves were investigated before they were chosen.
Also Wednesday, House Republicans, led by Daniel Winslow of Norfolk, hired a retired State Police detective to investigate the sexual abuse allegations against McGee, who was accused of assaulting a 15-year-old boy in the steam room of a Florida resort in 2007.
McGee was arrested at the time, but Florida prosecutors eventually declined to press charges.
The boy’s family filed a civil lawsuit, and McGee paid the family to settle the case. Terms of the agreement are confidential.
“It’s unacceptable and inexcusable for a basic due diligence investigation not to be completed before engaging a senior executive in such a sensitive position,’’ said Winslow, a former district court judge. “That these allegations involve the alleged molestation of a child make the need for investigation all the more important.’’
Winslow said he would pay for the investigator, retired State Police Lieutenant Inspector Bob Long, out of his political campaign account and seek public donations through a website, duediligencefund.com, set up for the purpose.
Grossman and Winslow’s comments were part of a growing controversy over McGee’s appointment, including protests from advocates for child sexual abuse victims and a vote by the Massachusetts House of Representatives Wednesday requiring the commission to conduct background checks on all hires.
The possibility that McGee, who started work Monday, would not remain in the job surfaced Wednesday afternoon. A spokeswoman for the commission hinted that the agency might hold up the appointment while it conducts a background check on McGee, even though Crosby has previously said that he and other board members had looked into McGee’s record and found it “pristine.’’
The spokeswoman, Karen Schwartzman, did not respond to messages from the Globe, but she told New England Cable News host Jim Braude: “After voting to extend an offer to Mr. McGee, the vote made clear that it was subject to passing a background check. . . . The background check for Mr. McGee is underway and is not complete yet. Mr. McGee won’t be on the commission payroll until such time as the background check is complete.’’
In appointing McGee last week, Crosby said the charges had been “investigated six ways from Sunday’’ and were false.
“He went through this horrendous experience of being accused of a sexual harassment charge several years ago in Florida,’’ he told colleagues before they voted to name McGee the agency’s interim executive director on May 1.
Later, Crosby acknowledged he conducted no independent investigation, relying on news reports that the prosecutor had declined to bring charges because of a lack of DNA or other corroborating evidence.
Crosby also cited a review by the governor’s office, a review that did not take place. Administration officials have acknowledged they never investigated the allegations, allowing McGee to return to his job in the administration because no criminal charges were filed.
The teenager was vacationing with his family at an upscale Gulf Coast resort in December 2007 when the alleged assault occurred. Law enforcement officials in Florida said they believed the story of the alleged victim, who was 15 at the time, and had urged the local prosecutor to bring charges against McGee. They described the teenager as scared, but credible, providing consistent accounts to investigators.
A police officer who investigated the case said he did not know why charges were never brought. “Somewhere between Massachusetts and Florida . . . I don’t know what happened,’’ he said. “It’s above my pay grade.’’
After the prosecutor declined to bring charges, the boy’s parents complained to the Florida governor’s office. An investigator for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement subsequently recommended that the prosecutor reconsider the charge of sexual battery on a child under 16 and add a second charge of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under 16.
Again the prosecutor decided not to bring charges.