Former MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis is facing a lawsuit alleging improper behavior during his time with the casino.
Filed on Nov 10 in Hampden County Superior Court, the suit names Mathis and Blue Tarp Development, LLC as defendants. Blue Tarp is the corporate entity controlling the casino. The plaintiff is Chelan Brown, a former employee of MGM Springfield.
Brown alleges several breaches of Massachusetts law by Mathis and MGM Springfield, and that she faced racial discrimination. The complaint also claims that the defendants retaliated against Brown when she refused to report inaccurate numbers to Massachusetts’ gaming authorities. Finally, it alleges breach of contract and of promises Brown says were made to her by the defendants.
Backstory to the Complaint
The complaint describes Brown as “an African American female who dedicated herself to the success of MGM and was one its first employees.”
MGM employed Brown as a regional area director when it began pre-construction in 2014. She then went to work for Mathis in January 2015 as an administrative assistant to him in his capacity as President.
In her role, according to the complaint, Ms. Brown was responsible for managing the property’s community office. This engaged in various projects, including communication with nearby residents.
Brown received several subsequent promotions with role titles including Specialist HR Communication and Specialist Diversity Construction. In September 2015, she signed a three-year employment agreement for the role of Construction Diversity Manager II.
Focus on Diversity
The complaint describes Brown’s responsibilities as including assisting MGM in meeting its construction diversity goals. She was also responsible for leading MGM in meeting diversity requirements set by governing agencies “as a condition for obtaining a gaming license.”
Shortly after the casino opened in 2018, Brown was the toast of the media. She began appearing on television and in articles discussing her work and MGM’s efforts to become a more diverse company.
Attention came not only from the media but from Mathis and MGM CEO James Murren. They reportedly praised Brown’s success in achieving the organization’s goals.
Where Things Went Wrong
The complaint alleges that company executives, including Mathis, would become “heavily intoxicated” at company events. Mathis allegedly felt comfortable enough around Ms. Brown that he began making comments about other women in her presence while drinking.
On one particular occasion, Mathis was reportedly so intoxicated that “he was unable to sign the bar bill for his corporate credit card.” Brown claims that she made several attempts to get Mr. Mathis to go home but that he refused.
According to the complaint, things got worse. It alleges that:
President Mathis felt so comfortable with Ms. Brown that he even attempted to employ her to commit illegal acts on his behalf. Her refusal to do so would ultimately makr the beginning of the end for Ms. Brown’s career with the company.
Reportedly, in 2018, while in a procurement position with MGM Springfield, Mathis told Brown that the position would be a great fit for her because she already had the trust of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC).
The company gave Brown the responsibility to oversee its Operational Procurement Diversity Plan. She presented the plan to the MGC. However, she became suspicious of some reports being provided to the MGC, assuring it that the property was meeting diversity goals in its contracting.
Brown reportedly told her manager that the numbers in some of the reports were inaccurate. She also reportedly informed Mathis and requested a meeting.
Brown claims that at the meeting, it became increasingly clear that there was incorrect reporting. She says she told Mathis that she didn’t feel the incorrect numbers should be passed to the MGC. However, she was allegedly told to report them as they were.
Prior to a meeting with staff from the MGM Las Vegas, Brown says she was told by her manager not to raise the issue. The complaint states that she did anyway and was removed from her role in procurement shortly thereafter.
Brown also alleges that she had discussed a future move into the role of Director of Government Affairs after casino construction was complete. However, after she reported the alleged illegal conduct, she was told that “she would not be considered for the job.”
Brown claims that her treatment by the company continued to deteriorate after this. Finally, the company terminated her employment in November 2019.
What’s Next in the MGM Springfield Lawsuit?
As always, it’s important to remember that complaints tell only the plaintiff’s side of the story.
The defendants will respond next. We can assume that they will deny many of the allegations. The due date for their response is 20 days after being served with the complaint, which in this case coincides with the end of the month.
Brown has also filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. While the allegations are yet to be proven, the potential implications could be significant. It’s possible that the MGC will choose to open its own investigation into the allegations.
The timing couldn’t be worse for MGM. All eyes have turned to Massachusetts, waiting for sports betting to start. That will make it hard to distract the public and media if the result is a massive investigation into one of the state’s flagship gaming facilities.