Case Against Former Charles Town HBPA President Ends

The Charles Town Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said legal proceedings against its former president, Dick Watson, have concluded.

A lawsuit filed last year in Jefferson County, W.Va., contained a laundry list of allegations against Watson, including claims he made loans to himself without HBPA approval. It also alleged he entered into a membership contract with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association in violation of state law.

In a July 12 statement, Charles Town HBPA said it is "disappointed that it became necessary to go the legal route." No further explanation was offered, though a copy of a signed admission and apology from Watson and his wife, Janene, accompanied the release.

Dated June 14, the document indicates Watson admitted to making the personal loans; using an HBPA vehicle at his farm; paying retirement benefits, bonuses, and vacation funds to his wife, who at the time was executive director of the HBPA; using HBPA money to pay personal bills, and later repaying the money; and failing to provide audit reports to the HBPA board.

The Watsons didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Dick Watson was unseated from the presidency in a heated 2003 election by Ann Hilton, who took a leave of absence after a few months and hasn't returned. The current president is Wayne Harrison, who in a statement said Dick Watson "abused the bylaws for his own personal benefit."

The release on resolution of the lawsuit was sent by Brande Larrimore, executive director of the HBPA, who was hired to serve for a 90-day interim period as assistant executive director. She replaced Don Combs, who left in April to return to upstate New York.

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