Lakewood to spend $55K on problem gamblers?

Lakewood is preparing to spend $55K to treat problem gamblers. There's a problem with problem gamblers in Lakewood?

Lakewood is preparing to spend $55K to treat problem gamblers. 

There’s a problem with problem gamblers in Lakewood?

City Manager Andrew Neiditz reports that Lakewood Police Department (LPD) Chief Farrar “is proposing the use of these funds from a 2012 Department of Justice grant to support the County Prosecutor and the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling in a grant application for a new program to provide therapeutic justice to problem gamblers.”

Neiditz suggests this expenditure is “consistent with community interest in mitigating difficulties associated with problem gamblers.”

There’s community interest in mitigating difficulties associated with (previously claimed as non-existent) problem gamblers in Lakewood?  How was this measured?

Especially since we have it from LPD spokesperson, and former Lakewood Police Independent Guild (LPIG) President, Brian Wurts himself that there are no problems in Lakewood with gambling. 

In an op-ed piece on August 14, 2008 in the Tacoma News Tribune, Wurts stated “Police are rarely called to the four small (Lakewood) casinos, and not one of the officers sharing hundreds of years of experience can remember ever dealing with a situation involving negative effects from gaming in the home.”

In a letter to the Editor of The Suburban Times on Feb.24, 2010, Wurts - then a Republican candidate to represent the 28th Legislative District, a race which he lost, wrote “I am against banning our lawful casinos because they simply do not cause problems. With all of my contacts in domestic disputes over 14 years you would think I have ever heard a fight or assault happened ‘because he was gambling’ or ‘because he lost our savings at a casino.’ I have never heard it and have never heard of anyone else who works these streets in any police department ever heard it.”

Well, now Farrar has heard of it and he didn’t have far to look.

“A was arrested and charged with 10 federal felonies related to the alleged embezzlement of more than $120,000 from a fund intended to benefit the families of four Lakewood Police Officers who were killed in the line of duty in November 2009” – money the officer used, among other things, for gambling here in Lakewood.

The officer referred to is Skeeter Manos, since fired, and with a trial due soon, but who at one time held the books for the Lakewood Police Independent Guild – of which Wurts was president, himself since resigned and on leave of absence pending FBI investigation as to whether he also was involved.

According to Eric Bell, Wurt’s replacement, when “other members (of LPIG) had requested independent reviews of the guild’s accounts in years past, the requests were thwarted by Wurts and Manos“.

Wurts’ protestations to the contrary, Farrar is now declaring we do indeed have a problem with problem gamblers and cites a very few of the very many statistics used by those who attempted to tell the untold story in the initiative attempt to oust gambling in 2008.   

And he wants to throw $55K at the problem.

And then Neiditz claims “the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) was very supportive and conducted a public hearing on the program” to treat problem gamblers.

They are?  And they did?

Did you hear about a public hearing on the expenditure of $55K to rid problem gamblers of their problem?

When I raised concerns about this matter with some of the members of the PSAC I was put in touch with the Lakewood Police Department.  Specifically, I wanted to know when the public hearing was held; if I might have a copy of the announcement of that public hearing, and minutes of the public hearing itself so that I could read who said what indicating that in fact the PSAC “was very supportive” at this “public hearing” they conducted – a public hearing announced (?) so that the public could hear and provide public input as the PSAC claims to encourage.  

The minutes-taker, an administrative assistant in the LPD and support staff to the PSAC, kindly responded that I could find what I was looking for – and now you can too - in the link provided by clicking here (scroll down to “April”).

Here, at the PSAC’s minutes-and-announcements-of-their-meeting’s page, you’ll see immediately the vision statement of the PSAC: (1) “identifying issues and gathering information from experts, opponents and proponents”, and (2) “reaching out for input from the citizens”. 

And, as to valuing citizen input – and reaching out to obtain it - there’s more of the same in the PSAC’s Mission Statement that follows their Vision Statement.

Given now that you know what the PSAC says they’re all about, you would expect to have heard about the public hearing on the expenditure of $55K to help problem gamblers get help for their problem for which the PSAC was “very supportive” – at least according to Neiditz - at the pre-announced public hearing that has already been held and that you are likely hearing about for the first time – the one that they reached out and told you about because, after all, they value your input.

However, with regards the specific matter of spending $55K to help problem gamblers there is only this:

 “Assistant Chief Mike Zaro presented the partnership between the Prosecutor’s office, Evergreen Council for Problem Gambling, and the Lakewood Police Department which will be using the DOJ/JAG Grant for a new program called the Problem Gambling Court, giving an explanation of the goals of this program, as well answering questions. LPD will be responsible for the administration part of the program.” 

OK, but where is there recorded any indication – at all – that the PSAC was “very supportive”?  There isn’t any.  You now know everything I know. 

When I quizzed the note-taker how $55K could be recommended to the council for authorization from a “very supportive” PSAC – and asked to see evidence that in fact the members of the PSAC were indeed “very supportive” I received this reply: 

“As for more detailed minutes, since we do not do verbatim minute taking per Roberts Rules of Order, the minutes posted on the website are the only minutes we have.”

And yet, if you read the minutes that were in fact taken the night of April 4, 2012 that presumably constitutes the “public hearing” to which Neiditz refers, one of the PSAC members happens to reflect about a gal in his neighborhood who celebrated her 100th birthday.    This bit of important information is recorded - in the minutes.  Admittedly very few people become centenarians – 1 in 6,000 to be fairly exact – so the fact that the minutes reflect this announcement of such a significant milestone having been reached is, I suppose, what you would expect in a “public hearing” on problem gamblers.  .

Such birthdays are so important in fact that Councilmember Marie Barth, liaison from the PSAC to the City Council – and who has promised to look into this matter I am addressing here - responds that she would like to know of such birthday events in the future so that members of the City Council can come to the party.  That too is recorded - in the minutes of the “public hearing” on treating gamblers who’ll likely never reach their 100th birthday unless they receive $55K to keep them from this terrible problem.  

But as to any record of what was said at the “public hearing” that indicates the PSAC was “very supportive” of spending $55K? 

Not a word. 

And no announcement that this “public hearing” was to be held – not in any of the previous months minutes/announcements that are posted on the PSAC police page. 

And yet, in an attachment the PSAC members received the night of April 4, “the planning process for this project began in June 2009 when representatives from Lakewood law enforcement” began meeting with other agencies to discuss problem gambling in Lakewood. 

Evidently the PSAC, which exists for their stated purpose of reflecting the community thinking of matters pro-and-con, heard about the program themselves for the first time this past month when they held what Neiditz called a “public hearing” – the one you didn’t hear about; the one where no minutes were recorded nor none exist as to any discussion that was alleged to have taken place on treating problem gamblers.

 At least the birthday cake made the cut. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jackie Lownie May 08, 2012 at 03:49 PM
I agree with David Anderson who is articulate as usual on this subject, and support the suggestion of an actual, advertised, open public meeting on the subject of problem gamblers and gambling in Lakewood. Jackie Lownie


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