The Indiana Horse Racing Commission has banned key state racing official Ed Martin Jr. from both Hoosier State Thoroughbred tracks for one year due to an alleged license violation. Martin, 57, filed a lawsuit in Marion County Superior Court in September in attempts to dismiss the case, which is scheduled to be adjudicated in January 2012.
The commission claimed Martin, a former car dealer and executive director of the Indiana Thoroughbred Owners' and Breeders’ Association, needed a license because of his industry position, from which he resigned in November 2010. According the commission, Martin resigned the same month he received his exclusion notice for refusing to comply with the license requirements. The ban was on hold until July 19, when an administrative law judge upheld the commission’s decision.
Martin claims the commission’s rules do not require him to possess a license and his ban is therefore unmerited. He alleged the real reason behind his punishment is because of his public criticism of the commission, which is headed by Joe Gorajec.
Martin, who was member of the commission from 1996 to 2001, scrutinized the way Gorajec handled various industry policies in a letter and also addressed his concerns in articles in Midwest Thoroughbred Magazine.
"Mr. Martin's suggestion that he was banned from the tracks because he may have criticized the commission is preposterous," Gorajec told The Blood-Horse Nov. 23. "He was excluded because he refused to do what every other individual who participates in racing in Indiana is required to do. His concocted and unfounded conspiracy allegations call into question the integrity of the commission (which affirmed his exclusion at a public meeting) without any legitimate basis.
"Lots of people take issue with commission decisions and they still get licensed and agree to play by the rules. Apparently, Mr. Martin thinks he is special and doesn't need to abide by the same rules that apply to other horsemen."
In addition to penalizing Martin for his refusal to obtain a license, the commission launched an investigation into a supposed horse neglect situation at Martin’s Thoroughbred farm near Reddick, Fla. last summer. Martin, who has since sold his horses and the farm, was exonerated from any neglect charges following the investigation.
Even though Martin didn’t race any horses in Indiana last year, the commission said he should have obtained a license because he worked for ITOBA, which receives financial support from the commission and conducts its business at the track.
"All individuals representing horsemen's associations who were not licensed were asked to become licensed at the same time Mr. Martin was," said Gorajec. "Ultimately, he was the only person who was employed by a horsemen's association who did not think that the Indiana rules should apply to him and did not seek Indiana licensure."
In the official commission rules, it states, “All directors, officers, and employees of a registered horsemen's association that will have access to any funds received if not otherwise licensed and in good standing with the commission, must apply for and be granted a separate commission license to act as a director, officer, or employee of a horsemen's association in order to serve in that capacity.”
It further states those must obtain a license include “Persons employed by the association (racetrack), or employed by a person or concern contracting with or approved by the association or commission to provide a pari-mutuel related service or commodity, with job duties which require their presence in a restricted area or which require their presence anywhere on association grounds.”
According to Martin, he did not have access to the funds described in the rule, however and he did not require access to restricted areas at the tracks since his ITOBA business is at the farm level. Furthermore, he said it’s a stretch to call his involvement with racing a “pari-mutuel-related service.”
He explained that section of the rules was written for employees of companies who "provide pari-mutuel services" like tote companies.
Martin said ITOBA does not provide pari-mutuel services. Rather, contracts between the local Horsemen’s Benevolent Protective Association and the tracks are approved by the commission concerning pari-mutuel income from simulcast signals.
But in a recommendation to the administrative law judge to uphold Martin’s exclusion notice, the commission stated, “It is beyond legitimate dispute that in 2010, ITOBA provided pari-mutuel related services. Based on the commission’s approval of ITOBA as a registered horseman’s association for 2010, ITOBA expended funds received pursuant to Indiana Code section 4-35-7-12 for the benefit of Thoroughbred owners and breeders.”
The commission added that Martin’s job duties did require him to be present on “association grounds,” as he conducted board meetings at Indiana Downs and also conducted ITOBA business at the Hoosier Park offices, as well as at the July and October 2010 ITOBA sales at the latter track.
“Mr. Martin engaged in activities requiring him to seek and obtain a license from the commission,” the organization stated in its report. “Mr. Martin made an intentional decision not to do so. It undermines the commission’s regulatory authority and negatively impacts the public interest and the integrity of racing when individuals like Mr. Martin engage in activities requiring licensure and attempt to evade their licensing obligation.”
The commission also reported Martin had signed a consulting agreement with ITOBA following his resignation as executive director and had since become an independent contractor to the ITOBA board.
“In this new role, Mr. Martin was to perform many, if not all of, the same services he had provided as an officer, director, and employee of ITOBA,” the commission stated. “It is clear that Mr. Martin will go to virtually any length to avoid his obligation to obtain a license.”
Martin said he had spent more than $30,000 in legal fees since being banned from the Indiana tracks and predicted he will spend an additional $20,000 in superior court fighting his case.
Martin feels he has been subject to the commission’s “unfair” adjudication system.
"The commission is confident that most Indiana horsemen know that his sensationalistic charges are fabricated and have absolutely no merit," said Gorajec.
In early November, Indiana inspector general David O. Thomas and attorney Kristi Shute issued a report following a 16-month investigation of the commission. The investigation was launched due to extensive complaints regarding the way the IHRC processes complaints and issues disciplinary actions for rule violations.
While Thomas stated in the report he had found no criminal code or ethics violations in the way the IHRC conducts its business, he offered several recommendations for the organization in order to “address the majority of the complaints, meritorious or unmeritorious we examined and prevent future complaints with an improved adjudication process.”
The suggestions made by the inspector general were to be considered by the commission over the next several months.