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editorial

Steve Wynn’s unwelcome, and unnecessary, libel lawsuit

Wynn.AP/file 2015

LIKE THE CITY of Boston, Steve Wynn has every right to file lawsuits. Whether that’s really a good idea, though, is a different question. The casino magnate’s libel lawsuit against unnamed individuals is an unwelcome escalation in the legal brinkmanship surrounding Wynn’s Everett casino.

The suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court on Monday, alleges that the city of Boston — as part of its own lawsuit to stop the Everett casino — issued subpoenas this summer containing false and defamatory information, and that someone then leaked their contents to the press “even before they were served on the persons named in the subpoenas”; the Globe reported on the subpoenas in July. The company’s take is that the purpose of the subpoenas was to give unfounded political attacks a veneer of credibility by putting them in a legal document.

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In a statement issued Tuesday, Wynn argued that the subpoenas, and their alleged release by unidentified John Does, were part of a pattern of below-the-belt tactics by the Walsh administration. “No individual or company who presents themselves honestly in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, by any measure of fair play, should be subjected to the defamatory political abuse that we have experienced, and it is our intention to finally deal with it,” Wynn said. In the highly regulated casino industry, where executives often have to pass extensive background checks, the accusations could be especially damaging.

Still, litigants have a right to ask questions. And the media have a responsibility to tell the public how its tax money is being used — including the lines of questioning that city-paid lawyers are pursuing. Finally, the “injury to their reputations” suffered by Wynn and casino executive Matthew Maddox, the other named plaintiff in the suit, appears to be nonexistent or speculative. Nothing the city has done has prevented the company from proceeding with its Everett plans, which cleared a crucial state permitting hurdle in August despite the city’s actions.

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That doesn’t mean Wynn should feel obliged to stay silent when he believes attacks are unfair or untrue. But if the allegations the city latched onto in its subpoenas are as bogus as Wynn’s suit says, then the company’s best response would be to keep making its case to the public, and convince voters that the city has been abusing the legal system. Voters can decide if they approve of the way Walsh and his legal department are spending the public’s money.