What’s the big secret?

Great Falls Recreation & Redevelopment LLC — the limited liability partnership that has proposed building a casino on the former Bates Mill No. 5 site in Lewiston — is not revealing its partners. It prefers, instead, for the partners to reveal themselves one at a time over a period of months.

This misguided adherence to secrecy is one of the factors that doomed the Evergreen Mountain casino proposal for Oxford County in 2008, so the need for full disclosure ought to be obvious to the folks pitching a similar plan in Lewiston.

It is obvious to the folks involved in the more recent Oxford County casino proposal to be decided by voters in this November’s referendum. Black Bear Entertainment has been up front from the start, naming the players so voters know who is bankrolling that plan.

They are Steve Barber of Cape Elizabeth, retired CEO of Barber Foods, advertising executive Jim Boldebook of Alfred, small business owners Suzanne and Rupert Grover of Oxford, and Rob Lally, co-owner of Mt. Abram Ski Resort. Voters have critical information they need to decide whether this collective has the experience, finances and chutzpa to build Maine’s first casino.

The Lewiston casino partnership will be asking Maine voters to reject the Oxford County project this year in favor of the Lewiston project, which partners hope to bring to referendum in 2011. Tough to make that decision without knowing who is backing the Lewiston project since we can’t make any meaningful comparison between partnerships.

Two of the Lewiston partners have emerged, somewhat unwillingly, the first partner to acknowledge his connection to the project is Lewiston physician Ron Chicoine. The second, attorney and consultant Peter Robinson of Lewiston, revealed himself yesterday in a column he penned for the Sun Journal. Neither man will reveal the names of the other partners, perhaps as many as three more, because the still-secret partners prefer to be passive investors whereas Chicoine and Robinson will be more active, and more public.

It is interesting to note that two of the partners in the defeated Evergreen Mountain project are rolling the dice on these new proposals.

Peter Martin of Winslow has emerged as the spokesman for the referendum-bound Black Bear Entertainment project; the partners for that Oxford County project are public.

Stavros Mendros of Lewiston has moved on to emerge as a spokesman for the Great Falls proposal at the Lewiston site, where some partners have stepped into the light and others quietly stand in the dark.

Mendros is now in the process of gathering signatures to petition the Lewiston City Council to put the Great Falls option to buy the Bates Mill property on the June referendum, locking out any other development consideration until after the 2011 election. The option does not include purchase of the mill, which the city is set to raze.

He’s asking people to sign the petition without knowing who is backing the casino, asking them to have blind faith in unnamed people who stand to earn substantial profit if they succeed in getting public support for their private venture.

Signing a petition should not be a blind action. It should be an action based on facts.

Black Bear Entertainment recognizes that. So must Great Falls Recreation & Redevelopment.

If these partners really want voter support, they must step out of the shadow now.

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