Former lottery corporation boss Michael Graydon’s recent move to a private casino firm is the kind of development that makes the public achingly cynical about politics.
Where does the average Joe get the kind of deal Mr. Graydon did: an $86,000 payout despite quitting BC Lottery Corp. He now heads off to work at PV Hospitality ULC, which has direct ties to Paragon Gaming Inc., the outfit behind a hugely controversial casino venture in downtown Vancouver.
Mr. Graydon gave the lottery corporation a couple of months’ notice, but was told he should leave sooner rather than later based on where he was going. But the government decided to pay Mr. Graydon for the two months’ notice he gave even though he only worked a couple of weeks after notifying the corporation board he was departing. (His final payout included some unpaid vacation as well). Again, to repeat: this, despite the fact it was his decision to quit.
He must be kicking himself now that he did not give the board six months’ or a year’s notice.
But as egregious as the compensation is, it is not the worst aspect of Mr. Graydon’s defection. No, the worst bit of this affair is that someone like him could simply walk out the door as head of the lottery corporation one day and go work for a major gaming company operating in the province a couple of weeks later.
Has this government not heard of non-competition clauses for Crown corporation heads? Of cooling-off provisions that would prevent an official in the kind of position that Mr. Graydon held from waving goodbye to his old colleagues so soon after serving in a position that made him privy to information that might come in really useful to his new employer? It has non-competes for deputy ministers. Why not Crown corporation presidents? Where is the transparency here?
This is not to suggest a Crown corporation executive would be doing anything illegal by leaving the government’s employ and using knowledge gained there to benefit a new employer. There are no rules against it.
On the other hand, if that company is in competition with other companies that deal with the government, then it might not be very fair. And these are the types of things the province is supposed to look out for and build protections against.
If nothing else, it looks incredibly bad and morally suspect.
Mr. Graydon knows B.C.’s gaming landscape better than anyone in the province. PV Hospitality has a partnership with Paragon, which is building a glitzy new casino resort near B.C. Place Stadium, which includes a controversial casino. Paragon wants the gambling capacity in the casino to be far bigger than it is. You would have to think making that a reality will be part of his mandate.
Mr. Graydon would also certainly be in a position to know detailed background, financial and otherwise, about other private casino operators in the province – such as Great Canadian Gaming – thanks to his time at the lottery corporation. And you would think this type of information could be valuable to a competitor such as Paragon. This is intelligence, not to mention, that Mr. Graydon accumulated while being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by B.C. taxpayers. As Jackie Gleason used to say: “How sweet it is.”
The provincial government needs to explain why it was so easy for Mr. Graydon to make this jump. Moreover, it needs to introduce provisions immediately into the contracts of its future top Crown executives to prevent this sort of thing from happening. in the future. And please don’t say that if the government handcuffs potential executives by inserting non-compete clauses into their contracts, it will be more difficult to recruit the best people.
Spare me. Good people will always line up to take a position that pays nearly $500,000 a year, whether it includes a cooling-off provision or not. The government is fond of pointing out that, despite not paying teachers in B.C. what they might get elsewhere, there is never a shortage. Well, what’s good for teachers should be good for executives too.
And while it’s at it, maybe the government could review the severance terms of people who decide to quit. If they are asked to leave after two weeks because of a potential conflict of interest, they should be paid for two weeks – not two months. Governing politicians need to start regarding the money they spend as if it’s their own – not someone else’s.
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