JEFFERSON CITY — The top lawyer at the Missouri Gaming Commission has been replaced as the agency considers who will get the state's final casino license, potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

General Counsel Frank Jung said on Friday that he resigned this week after the agency's executive director — who had promoted him just months earlier — told him he could no longer stay on the job.

"All I can say is that Roger Stottlemyre told me that he was told he couldn't keep me on any longer," said Jung, adding he was not removed for any misconduct.

Stottlemyre did not identify the source of the directive, Jung said.

Jung had been fired once before by Gov. Jay Nixon, when Nixon was attorney general and Jung was an assistant in his office.

A Nixon spokesman declined to comment Friday about whether the governor's office played any role in replacing Jung at the Gaming Commission.

Stottlemyre also declined a request to comment Friday through commission spokeswoman LeAnn McCarthy. She confirmed Jung was replaced Wednesday with Michael Bradley, a lawyer for the Department of Public Safety and state Highway Patrol, but she declined to give the reason.

The shake-up comes as the Gaming Commission prepares to hold public hearings Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on the applicants for Missouri's final casino license. Four casino groups are vying for the license with sites proposed in Cape Girardeau, the Kansas City suburb of Sugar Creek, St. Louis City and St. Louis County.

It's a high-stakes competition that also affects existing casinos, some of whom don't want more competition around St. Louis or Kansas City. A casino license is worth big bucks. Missouri casinos reported adjusted gross receipts last fiscal year of $1.7 billion. Two St. Louis area casinos led the pack, taking in about $288 million each.

The general counsel has an important role in helping the commission determine whether applicants have met all the legal requirements, McCarthy said.

Jung said he and Stottlemyre talked Monday about how to proceed at the upcoming public hearings.

"Being told on Tuesday I was not being kept on was a shock," Jung said. "Your first thing is, 'What the hell's going on?' "

Jung, 54, of Jefferson City, said he was just seven months shy of being eligible for state retirement. He has worked for the state for 21 years and spent 11 years in the Army.

But Nixon and Jung have not always seen eye to eye.

As an assistant attorney general in February 2003, Jung argued before the Missouri Supreme Court against death row inmate Joseph Amrine, who claimed he should be released because he was innocent of the 1985 murder for which he had been convicted.

Jung argued that, under court precedent, new evidence of actual innocence is not grounds for releasing a death row inmate, unless the inmate could show some sort of constitutional violation occurred.

Nixon fired Jung shortly after that.

The Supreme Court also disagreed with Jung, ordering Amrine released.

Jung later was hired as an attorney in the state Office of Administration, where he served under both Democratic Gov. Bob Holden and Republican Gov. Matt Blunt. Jung said he joined the Gaming Commission in January as a legal counsel and was promoted to general counsel in July, when Stottlemyre became the executive director.

His replacement at the Gaming Commission also is a former Nixon staffer. Except for a brief stint in 2004 as an associate circuit judge in Carroll County, Bradley served as an assistant attorney general from 1995 to 2009, when Nixon became governor. His resume says he handled all litigation involving the Gaming Commission from 1995 to 2004.

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