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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Despite Sununu objection, Teamster official confirmed to state racing, charitable gaming panel

By John DiStaso, Senior Political Reporter
April 17. 2013 4:47PM

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17: CAZA CONFIRMED. The political coordinator of the Teamsters Local 633 was confirmed by the Executive Council as a member of the state Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission Wednesday over the objection of Republican councilor Chris Sununu, who had charged last week the appointment would be a "massive conflict-of-interest."

The vote was 4-1, with Republican councilor Raymond Burton joining Democratic councilors Chris Pappas, Colin Van Ostern and Debora Pignatelli in favor.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, who had nominated the Goffstown man to the post, said Caza's role as a political coordinator and lobbyist for the Teamsters, would bring "a good balance" to the commission.

Sununu charged in an interview with the Granite Status last Friday the Caza appointment was a conflict because Caza represents the same union that represents employees at Rockingham Park and the Seabrook Greyhound Park. While neither of these facilities conduct live racing they do broadcast simulcast signals of horse and dog races from throughout the country. Both facilities also hold casino-style gaming for charities.

Sununu said last Friday that he had a problem with any lobbyist serving on a state commission, but had said his primary concern was that Caza "represents the workers in the two biggest gaming houses in the state.

"How is he going to sit on the regulatory board that provides them oversight?" Sununu asked last Friday.

His comments prompted state AFL-CIO president Mark MacKenzie to charge that Sununu's objection stemmed from anti-union bias, which Sununu denied.

But Wednesday, Sununu toned down his earlier objection about lobbyists serving on state boards and commissions.

At the council meeting, Sununu said Caza "is absolutely a terrific guy; a really, really nice guy," but he said that as the political coordinator for the Teamsters, which represents workers at the two facilities, "there is a conflict-of-interest issue that I have with him.

"I don't care at all that he's a lobbyist," Sununu said. He said he was more concerned about Caza's specific role.

"It gives me cause for concern," he said. He said regulators should be "separate" from those working at the facilities.

After the meeting Sununu clarified, "I have a problem that he's a direct representative of the folks he's going to regulate.

"The issue is that he will be lobbying for more union representation within the facilities he is going to regulate," Sununu said.

But Hassan said during the meeting, "It is important to have employee voices at the table."

Pappas said Caza is "motivated by his community" and "cares for the people he represents.

"I don't see a conflict-of-interest," said Pappas.

Van Ostern said, "There are many boards and commissions where we have representatives of business and labor serving. He will bring his experience as someone who spends his days standing up for janitors" and other blue-collar workers.

Van Ostern said that if issues arise in which the commission would have a role in relations between Rockingham and Seabrook's managements and their unionized employees, "I'd expect him to recuse himself."

Pignatelli said that as a small state with many citizens who serve on board and commissions, banning anyone with a potential conflict from serving would leave the boards and commissions without "the type of quality we need."

Caza, whose term end on April 9, 2016, succeeds Warren Leary of Alton.

(For earlier Granite Status reports, click on "Granite Status" above.)

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