Wayne Gertmenian, the president and CEO of the Jockeys' Guild, is a bully who finally met his match in the halls of Congress.
Since helping orchestrate the 2001 overthrow of John Giovanni, who brought nothing but integrity, loyalty, and hard work to the Jockeys' Guild, Gertmenian has been all bluster and bluff.
He brought what he thought would be hapless "yes" men and women onto the board and into leadership positions, then manipulated the membership and its finances to do as he pleased.
Early last year, when Gary Donahue, a disabled jockey who oversaw the Disabled Jockeys' Fund, asked Gertmenian why the fund was being depleted, Donahue was fired.
When Eddie King, the Guild's treasurer, asked questions about finances of the Guild and Disabled Jockeys' Fund, he was voted off the board at Gertmenian's urging and out of the Guild.
When Kent Desormeaux said last December he was going to investigate unsubstantiated claims on Gertmenian's resumé (i.e., that he was a chief détente negotiator for Presidents Nixon and Ford), he was voted off the Guild's executive committee.
At that same December meeting, when there was rising discontent among jockeys over Gertmenian's management of the Guild and his alleged role in a failed walkout by riders at Churchill Downs, his hand-picked board voted to renew his contract for an additional five years. He is paid about $500,000 a year, between his salary and the fee paid to the consulting company he owns, Matrix Capital Associates. Gertmenian has admitted that Matrix has no employees and no clients other than the Guild.
Press inquiries about Gertmenian's background began shortly after he was hired. When questioned by The Blood-Horse's Eric Mitchell in October 2001 about claims on his resumé, Gertmenian said: "At this point in my life, I don't need to waste energy defending my reputation."
A Congressional hearing Oct. 18 conducted by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations exposed Gertmenian in ways that inquiring Guild members or the press could not. The committee subpoenaed a large amount of financial information, including tax returns for Matrix Capital, and used its access to federal records to look into claims on Gertmenian's resumé, which one member called a "complete fabrication."
The hearings caught Gertmenian in a web of deception involving many Guild decisions. It also showed him to be an incompetent executive, one who conducted board meetings where minutes were not kept, and who had hazy recollections of key decisions. House members were outraged by much of what Gertmenian said, and almost as much by what he didn't say.
Chris McCarron, the retired Hall of Fame rider who brought Gertmenian to the Guild, blew his opportunity to come clean during the hearing. While calling his part in the takeover the "worst mistake" of his life, McCarron couldn't bring himself to properly apologize to Giovanni, whose life was turned upside down and whose reputation was tarnished by the dismissal. McCarron could only say to Giovanni how sorry he was for the way Gertmenian's people treated him.
McCarron is as responsible for the current mess as anyone. He traveled the country with Gertmenian in 2001, introducing him to jockeys from coast to coast as the future savior for the Guild. After he retired from riding in 2002, McCarron became disenchanted and quietly distanced himself from Gertmenian, hoping the big mess he created would go away. It hasn't.
McCarron has the influence and stature to help right a wrong. It's time he stood up and did just that.