NYRA Monitor Says He Wants to 'Create a Positive'
by Tom Precious
Date Posted: 8/3/2004 2:53:04 PM
Last Updated: 8/5/2004 8:59:02 PM

The court-appointed monitor overseeing the New York Racing Association said his job is to bring "structural reforms" to NYRA, not tear it down with "scandal of the week" announcements.

In an upbeat assessment of his duties, Neil Getnick said he would avoid turning the monitor's office into a vehicle for embarrassing NYRA that "takes down the industry, lowers morale, and accomplishes nothing."

"We're in the background," said Getnick, a partner in a Manhattan law firm. "We are not the story."

Getnick's firm was tapped earlier this year by a federal judge following NYRA's admission it aided and abetted tellers who were engaged in a systematic tax-evasion scheme. NYRA paid a $3-million fine, but its prosecution was deferred, provided it keeps its operations clean during the oversight period that ends next July.

NYRA is paying for the team of lawyers, auditors, and investigators Getnick's firm has been sending to NYRA tracks full-time since early March. Getnick said he did not yet know how much the project has cost.

Getnick has shied far away from the media since his appointment. In an Aug. 3 speech at a Saratoga Springs, N.Y., conference sponsored by Albany Law School, and in a subsequent interview with The Blood-Horse, Getnick declined to reveal any findings from oversight operations at NYRA. He also declined to say if he has turned over information for further investigation to the U.S. Attorney's office. Rumors have run rampant in recent weeks that Getnick has uncovered a host of problems at NYRA.

Getnick further declined to weigh in on the brewing salary issue involving National Thoroughbred Racing Commissioner Tim Smith, who will resign effective Sept. 1 and could be named president and chief executive officer at NYRA. But Smith makes $750,000 a year at the NTRA, a figure NYRA, given its financial trouble, could have problems justifying to state officials. And Getnick avoided the issue of NYRA's bid to change a state law to help it get its long-stalled racino at Aqueduct up and running.

Getnick said he sees his job as taking "a much larger view of NYRA," and not just checking to ensure there is no wrongdoing. He said his team is working on four guiding principles in dealing with NYRA: integrity, transparence, good governance, and social responsibility. Those four items, he said, are the "blueprint for the type of structural reform that will be meaningful" at NYRA.

The lawyer also sounded part cheerleader at times. He talked of the most prestigious horse race in the world being either the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) or the Travers Stakes (gr. I), both NYRA events, not the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). He also talked of New York racing being "the best product in the world."

Getnick, who said he has personally been walking the barn areas of NYRA racetracks at sunrise to talk to everyone from trainers to hot walkers, has spent his time on a host of fiscal issues, including discussions with horsemen to get the purse account "back up to where it should be" after NYRA dipped into the fund for millions of dollars over the years to help balance its books.

The monitor painted a surprisingly broad picture of his role. In the end, he said his job is to "help horse racing" by focusing on several key issues. "Is this industry more efficient? Is this industry more effective? Is this industry more profitable?" Getnick said.

Getnick said he hopes to "repair relationships" in New York to "create an atmosphere of trust among those who make up the horse racing industry."

"I'd rather be part of a process to create a positive than unearth a negative," he said.

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