CEDAR RAPIDS — City Hall has answered a request from the Just Say No Casino campaign to provide copies of emails that mention City Council member Justin Shields and the casino investment group led by local businessman Steve Gray.
The city has identified just six emails of arguably little consequence, all in the month of October 2012, all subsequent to Gray’s public announcement on Oct. 3 that Gray and other local investors would try to bring a casino to Cedar Rapids. Shields sent none of the six emails.
Just Say No Casino asked to see emails from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31.
It’s widely known that Shields has advocated for a casino as a City Council member for a number of years, and Gray routinely credits Shields with pushing him to try to bring a casino to the city. It is routine, too, for city officials to meet with developers about their project proposals.
Shields is now one of five members of the newly created Linn County Gaming Association Inc., the non-profit entity that will hold the state gaming license if one is granted for the Gray-led casino proposal. The association signed a contract with the casino investors on Oct. 2 and will help dispense a portion of casino profits to community groups if there is a casino.
Just Say No Casino has been critical of Gray’s investment group and the association for signing a contract that calls for the state minimum of 3 percent of adjusted gross receipts from the casino to go to the association. Other casinos in Iowa pay out more. Association members have said that want to give Gray’s group time to get the casino up and running.
Just Say No Casino also sought email communications between Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson, another member of the gaming association, and the casino investors.
Oleson this week said he had never used his county email to communicate with the casino group, though he did use his personal email account, he said. He said he deleted those emails for the period ending Oct. 31 because he does not keep aging emails in his personal account.
The six emails produced by City Hall that mention Shields and the casino investors consist of:
– An Oct. 10 email from City Manager Jeff Pomeranz’s assistant to Mayor Ron Corbett that announces that Shields has set up a meeting on Oct. 11 with Gray at City Hall.
– An Oct. 11 email from Pomeranz that notes the meeting and expected attendees, Gray, Shields and council member Monica Vernon.
– An Oct. 22-Oct. 23 email string that is a communication among Doug Gross, a Des Moines attorney and strategist for the casino investor group, Gray and members of the gaming association to set up a meeting in Gray’s office to discuss the topic of flood prevention. Corbett was to attend the meeting.
– Two emails on Oct. 25 that announce a meeting at the Metro Economic Alliance at which Shields will introduce Steve Gray. One provides pointers to Shields from the casino group’s communications director Marcia Rogers.
– An email on Oct. 27 that copies Shields and is from Linda Seger, a gaming association board member and neighborhood leader, to casino investor Drew Skogman, describing an encounter she had with someone critical of her presence on the gaming association board.
Sam Roecker, a consultant with the Just Say No Casino campaign, on Friday was puzzled why there was such little email traffic related to Shields and his membership on the gaming association board. He wondered if Shields had a private email account that should be made public.
“Was there really that little discussion about the non-profit deal (with the investors) that a member of the Linn County Gaming Association didn’t’ send a single email?” Roecker asked.
Shields on Friday said he doesn’t like to use email and prefers to hold his discussions face to face. Sometimes, he settles for the phone, he said.