Upset with Jackson's Comments, Casner Resigns From HOPA

Upset with Jackson's Comments, Casner Resigns From HOPA
Photo: File Photo
Bill Casner
Bill Casner has resigned as a director of Horse Owners’ Protective Association, saying he is leaving the advocacy group in reaction to comments recently made by fellow founder Jess Jackson in regard to the Sales Integrity Task Force.

Casner, chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and a member of the task force, submitted his resignation to HOPA Oct. 15 after Jackson released a seven-page statement on the task force’s legislative recommendations on auction regulation.

“I could not be associated with the mindset of someone who would categorically attack the good integrity of those people on the task force,” said Casner, who along with Jackson and Three Chimneys Farm owner Robert Clay founded HOPA in 2006. “We have people on the task force with unimpeachable integrity that came together and worked hard to find a consensus on issues facing the auction industry.

“To attack those individuals, who had dedicated their time … and to be characterized as either a crook or a fool, that’s what it amounted to,” Casner continued of Jackson’s statements, which harshly criticized the recommendations and the task force process.

Casner said Jackson also attacked the integrity of TOBA, which oversaw the efforts of the task force, a 36-member group of individuals from various segments of the horse industry, including other breeds than Thoroughbreds.

“I felt TOBA was attacked in the letter, because it is under our jurisdiction, and we were heavily involved in the selection process,” he said. “I felt it was imperative that I had to respond.”

Jackson, who claimed the selection process of the task force was secretive and selective, was not immediately available for comment. But his corporate attorney, Kevin McGee, issued a brief statement in response to Casner’s resignation.

“We can appreciate that we have put him in a difficult decision, and understand his decision-making process, and we wish him nothing but success,” said McGee, who is president of HOPA.

Earlier this year, HOPA merged with the Alliance for Industry Reform, another advocacy group founded by task force member Satish Sanan.

Casner said he still supports some of the ideals for change Jackson has advocated.

“I can’t give enough credit to Jess for having the courage to stand up when he felt he was wronged, and guys like "Mattress Mac" -- that makes a strong statement,” he said, noting owner James McIngvale, who, like Jackson, filed a lawsuit alleging fraud against agents in the auction industry. “I will continue to work with him on issues of integrity. I embrace the goals. I am just very disappointed in the methods.”

But Casner said he saw a “disconnect” from Jackson early in the task force process, which in February was given charge by the Kentucky legislature to evaluate proposed legislation to regulate the auction industry.

“There was non-attendance by Jess. There was non-attendance by Kevin McGee,” Casner said. “He said he wasn’t notified of any of the meetings. That is so out-of-line. These meetings were scheduled far in advance.

“We have a paper trail of e-mails. We called him. I called him personally and told him, 'You need to be at this public forum,'” Casner continued, noting the Oct. 15 meeting at Keeneland at which the task force’s preliminary recommendations were announced. “He had options. He could have attended in person. He could have attended by telephone. That’s available to him from anywhere in the country.”

McGee, in an earlier interview with The Blood-Horse, said Jackson was notified of meetings, but the gatherings were scheduled on days in which the owner of the Kendall-Jackson winery told the task force he could not attend.

Casner, a Texas resident who co-owns WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky., said many members had to travel to attend the task force meetings.

“I flew into Lexington numerous times to make meetings, and others came from around the country, and sometimes from out of the country,” he said.

Casner said he hopes people will give fair consideration to the recommendations, which have been criticized by Jackson, bill co-founder Larry Clark of the Kentucky House of Representatives, and others for seeking self-regulation.

“What you have to understand is that you have to look way down the road,” he said. “You have to look at what the revisions in policy will mean to the future of the industry. We have a Kentucky sales industry that is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and last thing you want to do is take away any competitive advantage. It can shift that balance. You have to look at the impact your decisions will have.”

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