Two months after he resigned as president of the New York Racing Association, Terry Meyocks remains on the job -- a move that is making some government officials start to privately grumble.
Criticized by state officials for his oversight of a racing entity with a series of financial irregularities and criminal activities by some employees, Meyocks resigned in late September. Though he was defended by many NYRA leaders, his backers begrudgingly accepted his departure as a way to soothe state and federal regulators who have been investigating NYRA for at least two years.
NYRA Chairman Barry Schwartz said Meyocks is still working at NYRA because officials need to tap into his racing expertise. "He's still here because we're going through a transition period. He will be replaced in the not-too-distant future,'' said Schwartz, who was Meyocks' most vocal supporter when state officials, led by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, began calling for his resignation.
Schwartz declined to say if Meyocks is still drawing the salary he made as president, which a state probe said totaled about $350,000 a year. Schwartz said Meyocks' work has been focused on the racing side of NYRA's business.
Word of Meyocks remaining at NYRA has been increasingly making the rounds at the state Capitol, where NYRA is battling to keep allies in the Legislature and Pataki administration. Several state officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed concern that Meyocks remains at NYRA nearly two months after his departure was viewed as part of a reform effort at NYRA.
With possible federal indictments hanging over NYRA's head as part of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office, Schwartz said NYRA has been focused on making internal changes to address problems uncovered by Spitzer and state Comptroller Alan Hevesi. Schwartz said he had lunch a week ago with Hevesi and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in a session he characterized as cordial.
"We will do what he wants us to do,'' Schwartz said of Hevesi. "We're not looking to go to war or bang heads.''+
For now, NYRA's video lottery program remains stalled, as its partner, MGM Mirage, has put work on hold at Aqueduct pending the outcome of the federal investigation. MGM reported this week it has a $4 million receivable from NYRA for the VLT program, which was to have begun in December, and was, before the VLT work was halted, committed to purchasing about $9 million in equipment. In all, the VLT program was to have cost $135 million, MGM said.
Schwartz said he is confident the VLT program will still be moving ahead, and with MGM as a partner. He said other companies have come to NYRA seeking to partner with it, but Schwartz said NYRA remains committed to MGM.
Schwartz also dismissed word state budget negotiators were looking at a plan to permit VLTs at OTB parlors across the state. He noted Silver has opposed that plan. "I can't imagine that happening,'' he said of the OTB push.
And in a small, yet symbolic, indication of NYRA financial woes, Saratoga boxholders were recently billed to pay their box fees now for next August's race meet. Schwartz called it pre-billing, and is similar to how professional sports teams handle season tickets.
"Three weeks after the World Series I got billed for next year's Yankees tickets,'' he said. "It's no secret we've been short on cash. And this is not exactly a great imposition on anyone.''