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The state gambling commission is standing behind its decision to hire C. Stanley McGee as interim executive director, defending McGee’s “presumption of innocence’’ regarding a 2007 accusation of sexual assault that was never prosecuted.

“A fair society and just society recognizes the value and importance of that presumption,’’ wrote commission chairman Stephen Crosby on Monday, in a letter answering criticism from state Representative Daniel Winslow, a Norfolk Republican.

McGee, 43, a Rhodes scholar and Harvard Law School graduate, started work for the commission Monday.

Winslow had recommended the commission delay McGee’s employment so the panel could investigate the allegation. In a letter to the commission, released to the Globe on Sunday, Winslow also suggested the commission give McGee a lie detector test.

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McGee was accused of assaulting a 15-year-old youth in Florida. After an investigation, Florida authorities declined to prosecute due to lack of evidence, though a separate investigation by a Florida child welfare specialist concluded the accuser was credible, and recommended prosecution. The boy’s family sued McGee in civil court. The case was settled; terms of the accord are confidential.

“The commission is not a law enforcement agency,’’ Crosby wrote, in a sharply worded response to Winslow released Monday. “Except in limited circumstances, none of which is applicable here, it is illegal under state law to require a polygraph examination as a condition of employment, even if the subject of the examination agrees to such examination.’’

Crosby added that the new commission does not yet employ any investigators and is unlikely to ever have specialists trained to investigate crimes against children. “I am, to say the least, surprised that you would suggest that the commission embark on a course that is both illegal and impossible to accomplish,’’ Crosby wrote.

Winslow was equally sharp in a retort later Monday, in which he accused the commission of failing to conduct “adequate due diligence’’ before filling a senior position.

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“I respectfully disagree that the lack of criminal prosecution is tantamount to exoneration for due diligence purposes and I certainly hope as a matter of public policy that will not be the standard the [commission] applies when reviewing applicants for gaming licenses,’’ Winslow wrote.

The dueling letters are the latest fallout from the week-old controversy over the commission’s hiring of McGee. The commission is borrowing McGee from the governor’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, where he has worked as assistant secretary for policy and planning. The hiring has come under withering criticism by the family of the youth who accused McGee of assault. The family decided to speak up after McGee’s former boss suggested in a Globe story that McGee had been falsely accused.

Crosby’s two-page letter to Winslow, on the official stationery of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, offers a broad defense of the commission’s decision to hire McGee to the temporary post.

“The allegations of criminal wrongdoing were brought to the attention of Florida authorities, investigated by Florida authorities,’’ and were not prosecuted, Crosby wrote. “The presumption of innocence that Mr. McGee was entitled to as the process began thus was unchanged by anything the investigation revealed.’’

McGee’s decision to settle a civil suit over the allegation does not compromise that presumption of innocence, insisted Crosby.

“The decision to settle a case requires the agreement of all participants in the lawsuit and is done for a variety of reasons that may or may not have anything to do with the underlying merits of the case,’’ he wrote. “Thus, no change to the presumption of innocence can be reasonably inferred from the fact that the civil action was settled.’’

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McGee, who was suspended from his administration job when the accusation was raised, resumed his post after authorities decided not to pursue a criminal case against him. McGee, one of Governor Deval Patrick’s most experienced advisers on casino issues, helped craft the legislation that legalized casino gambling in Massachusetts. He is expected to serve the gambling commission for several months while the search for a permanent executive director is underway.

McGee has not publicly commented on the allegation since the commission hired him.

The five-member gambling commission is one of the most powerful boards in the state. It is charged with licensing up to three gambling resorts and one slot parlor. The panel is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Tuesday.


Mark Arsenault can be reached at marsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark.