Deval Patrick, top officials, say they’ll hire search firm to help pick powerful casino board

Top state officials announced today they will hire a search firm to select two of five members of a powerful new state gambling commission.

Under casino legislation signed into law last week, Governor Deval Patrick, Treasurer Steve Grossman, and Attorney General Martha Coakley must each select a representative to the new board that will choose which developers open three casinos and one slots parlor, and how those facilities will be regulated.

The legislation requires that the final two positions on the board be filled jointly by a majority vote of the governor, treasurer, and attorney general.

Today’s announcement sets up a process for identifying finalists for those final two selections, by requesting that private search firms submit bids for a contract to help locate them. The technical bid documents are available here.

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According to a joint press release from Patrick’s office: “No candidate will be chosen who has any conflicts of interest that could impact their ability to make the best and most independent decisions on behalf of the Commonwealth.’’

The unelected full-time board, which must be appointed by mid-March, will be among the most powerful institutions in state government. Its decisions will affect how billions of dollars are spent.

The chairman will be paid $150,000 annually – about $10,000 more than the governor – and the other members will be paid $112,500 each. The salaries will rise in the future in conjunction with the salary of the state’s secretary of administration and finance.

Patrick’s spokesman, Brendan Ryan, said the governor, treasurer, and attorney general will not use the search firm for the first three members of the panel. He said each office will use their own process to make those appointments.

“A thorough third-party vetting process will ensure that the best people are in place to protect the integrity of the commission and the interests of the Commonwealth and its citizens,’’ Grossman said in a press release this morning.

“Hiring qualified individuals with independence, experience and integrity will be critical to the success of the new gaming commission,’’ Coakley said.

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