Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino has selected Gary Palmer to be its new general manager.
The Iowa racetrack's board of directors voted 10-2 Aug. 16 to promote Palmer, who has been senior vice president, following a tumultuous week in which two board members said they thought other candidates were more qualified. In addition, a civil suit settled in December surfaced; it alleged Palmer had improperly fired a human resources director.
The board discussed the allegations in the suit by former human resources director Carl Wiese in executive session, and Palmer brought a six-inch thick stack of documents to back his arguments that he had done nothing wrong. After that, the board voted to hire him over four out-of-state finalists that it had interviewed Aug. 5 and 8.
"He had documentation of what happened," board member Jack Peters said. "Actually, when it was dug into, it really enhanced the confidence people had in him and that he wasn't involved in anything underhanded. I think as we polled the room, we definitely picked the best candidate."
The vote came seven months after former general manager Bob Farinella announced his resignation. The track board will now negotiate a salary with Palmer, who was a board member from 1995 to 1998, then became a member of the track's management team.
"The past week was frustrating at times," Palmer said. "That's part of the process. We went through it with a very strong vote, and I couldn't ask for more. It was a good process and I'm glad it's over. I've never had a doubt of my abilities to run things, because I've been doing it all this time."
Peters, who represents horse owners on the board, said Palmer was endorsed by Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse interests.
Talks on the 2007 racing season at Prairie Meadows have been on hold until the general manager was selected. Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse interests have presented a plan for an April-to-September season that starts with Thoroughbreds, then adds in Quarter Horses in June after Remington Park's Quarter Horse meet ends. However, they disagree on issues such as the split for races per day and purses for each breed.