Horse owner Mary Frances Rowe has lost the first round in her effort to force the California Horse Racing Board to produce a so-called "secret agreement" between the regulatory agency and trainer Frank Monteleone, but she vows to continue her legal fight.
A judge has refused Rowe's California Public Records Act request that would have forced the CHRB to divulge whether it has such an agreement with Monteleone, whom Rowe believes has provided information on suspicious backstretch activities of fellow trainers.
Rowe alleges that Monteleone made a deal to cooperate with Roy C. Wood Jr., the since-retired executive director of the CHRB, to protect himself from possible license revocation. The Southern California trainer and his assistant allegedly defrauded two Las Vegas men in the purchase and training of a pair of European Thoroughbreds, a case originally investigated by the CHRB in 1997 that was settled in a Nevada district civil court earlier this year for an undisclosed sum.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Raymond M. Cadei released his decision this week after reviewing a box of documents related to Monteleone submitted by the CHRB at the conclusion of a short hearing held on June 17.
Without specifically referring to a Monteleone contract – which the CHRB has not acknowledged even exists – Cadei found that all the documents were exempt from disclosure. He said the files "relate to one or more investigations by the Board in which there was a concrete and definite prospect of enforcement of the Board's licensing laws and regulations and/or criminal law."
A disappointed Rowe said the CHRB had intentionally "muddied the waters" by submitting to the judge dozens of pages of material related to Monteleone.
"We weren't interested in seeing all that other stuff," the 73-year-old crusader said. "All we want to know is, does an agreement between Frank Monteleone and the CHRB exist or does it not."
She said she plans to petition the court of appeals next.