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August 11, 2011

Akwesasne Casino supervisor disciplined

AKWESASNE — A state gaming supervisor at Akwesasne Mohawk Casino faces disciplinary action for accepting gifts from patrons and selling Girl Scout cookies to employees.

Edward Hawks, a supervising gaming inspector for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, admitted to state investigators that he accepted miniature cigars from casino gamblers and a clock, two used bar stools and a windbreaker from slot-machine vendors.

He has worked for the state since 1999 and was assigned to his full-time supervisory job at Akwesasne in 2009.

"Edward Hawks acted improperly when he accepted gifts, even of modest value, from Akwesasne Mohawk Casino employees whose activities he oversees and regulates," the report states.

"This conduct, as well as Hawks's sale of items to casino employees, arguably violates the Public Officers Law."

Hawks supervises a staff of nine casino inspectors and took part in ethics training as recently as February 2010 that outlined what is acceptable for someone in his position to accept, according to a final report issued by the State Inspector General's Office Wednesday.

"As a supervisor, Mr. Hawks had a duty to avoid any conflicts of interest, and as a state casino regulator, even the appearance of a conflict is inexcusable," Inspector General Ellen Biben said in a news release.

The investigation began from an anonymous tip that Hawks had allegedly accepted a clock, two high-back stools and a windbreaker from a slot-machine vendor and miniature cigars from casino patrons.

He also allegedly made "disparaging remarks about Native Americans operating the casino" and sold $200 worth of his daughter's Girl Scout cookies to casino employees.

The law states that employees should not accept any gift "having more than a nominal value" when it could appear to influence their job performance or be seen as a reward for an official action they take.

Hawks denied that he accepted gifts in exchange for official actions and told investigators he thought he was only banned from accepting gifts valued at $75 and above.

According to the SeeThoughNY.net database, Hawks's annual salary with the Racing and Wagering Board is $66,394.

Email Denise A. Raymo at: draymo@pressrepublican.com

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