The state gambling commission approved two key hires Tuesday, borrowing Patrick administration official C. Stanley McGee to serve as the board’s interim executive director and voting to offer Boston police spokeswoman Elaine B. Driscoll a post as the commission’s first director of communications.
McGee, 43, of Boston, is the assistant secretary for policy and planning in the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. He has been one of Governor Deval Patrick’s key policy advisers on gambling issues and the development of casino legislation and has been deeply involved in Patrick’s negotiations with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe over a tribal casino proposed for Taunton.
The addition of McGee, who is expected to serve at least several months, is intended to free commissioners from much of the organizational work required to stand up the new agency - things like making sure the computers work and interviewing candidates for the office staff - and allow them to spend more time developing policy.
The commission’s search for a permanent executive director is ongoing. Formally known as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the panel will hire an executive search firm to look for candidates.
McGee would be permitted to apply for the permanent post if he wished, but the commission has been clear that it prefers an executive director with substantial experience overseeing the casino industry. Since the industry is brand new here, it is likely that the panel will need to look outside Massachusetts for candidates with the right expertise.
McGee, a Rhodes scholar and a graduate of Harvard Law School, “has extensive knowledge about how Beacon Hill and state government work,’’ said commission member Bruce Stebbins.
McGee is also intimately familiar with the 2011 state law that legalized casino gambling, having worked on gambling issues and casino legislation for about five years, McGee said in a telephone interview after he was named to the post.
“I certainly know the players and the issues,’’ McGee said. “While I wouldn’t check my policy expertise at the door, I see this as a blocking and tackling position to help the commission set up.’’
He said it is too soon to say if he would apply for the permanent post, and expects to return to the Patrick administration when the commission no longer needs him.
McGee has worked for Patrick since 2007. Prior to joining the administration, he was director of business and civic outreach for MassEquality, a gay rights organization, according to his resume, which was provided by the gambling commission. McGee was a junior partner at the law firm WilmerHale from 1998 to 2006.
In discussing McGee’s qualifications at Tuesday’s public meeting, commission chairman Stephen Crosby addressed what he called “an elephant in the room with Stan’’ - a 2007 accusation of sexual assault.
The Patrick administration placed McGee on unpaid leave in early 2008, after McGee was accused in Florida of assaulting a 15-year-old boy at a resort hotel in Boca Grande. After an investigation, prosecutors in Lee County, Fla., dropped the case for lack of evidence, and McGee resumed his work for state government.
The family of the teenage accuser filed a civil suit against McGee in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston in 2009. The case was settled in 2011, according to lawyers who represented the family. Terms of the settlement are confidential, but attorney Wendy Murphy said it was resolved to the satisfaction of the family.
Crosby told the commission that the accusation was thoroughly investigated by legal authorities in Florida and administration officials in Massachusetts. He urged the panel not to hold an unsubstantiated allegation against McGee.
‘I certainly know the players and the issues.’C. Stanley McGee, New interim executive director of Massachusetts Gaming Commission
Dan O’Connell, who was secretary of housing and economic development when the accusation against McGee was lodged, said in an interview that the department had carefully reviewed the matter. “We were completely comfortable that Stan had been falsely accused, and we welcomed him back,’’ he said.
McGee said yesterday that he was not prepared to talk about the allegation. He will work for the gambling commission at the same salary he earned in the Patrick administration, $121,000, said Crosby.
In voting to make a job offer to Driscoll, who had applied for the job, the commission chose a well-established communications director with extensive contacts at Boston news organizations. She has worked for the Boston Police Department since 2006 and has been one of the most widely quoted spokeswomen in the state.
Before joining the Boston Police Department, Driscoll, of Charlestown, worked in 2005 as vice president of corporate communication for SBE Entertainment Group in Los Angeles, according to her resume. She was a public relations consultant for the 2004 campaign of then-US Representative William Delahunt, and has been a senior vice president at Regan Communications Group.
Driscoll had not accepted the offer by Tuesday evening; the commission was negotiating a salary with her, said Karen Schwartzman, a communications consultant who has been the commission’s spokeswoman.
The commission also signaled Tuesday that it would soon invite casino companies interested in building in Massachusetts to submit financial and other information for the commission to vet, ahead of any formal proposals. The information would allow the commission to prequalify the potential bidders it judges to be suitable, and eliminate those with shaky balance sheets or questionable integrity.Mark Arsenault can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark