Ingrid Fermin, the former executive director of the California Horse Racing Board who was appointed to be a steward at the current Del Mar meet, gained the commission's backing July 23 in a dispute with several horsemen opposed to her selection.
The board met in executive session to consider appeals filed the week of July 20 contending that Fermin is incapable of being unbiased against them because of actions she took during her three-year tenure as executive director. She resigned in January 2008.
Upon reconvening to its regular meeting, John Harris, the board chairman, said he "personally reviewed those appeals" and felt that they were "not an an appropriate challenge" to Fermin's status. He said the board had considered all of its steward choices "and we have nothing that would make us change any of those appointments."
Horse owner Jerry Jamgotchian first filed a complaint against the board over Fermin's appointment to the Del Mar post, which pays $26,000 to her as an independent contractor. Later appeals to Fermin's standing came from trainers Jeff Mullins, Mike Mitchell, Doug O'Neill, Steve Knapp, Art Sherman and Brian Koriner, as well as horse owner Sean Gerson.
They sought to have Fermin barred from ruling on races in which they entered horses during the first three days of the meet.
Jamgotchian said he plans to file a lawsuit against the board the first time Fermin makes a ruling involving one of those races.
Fermin, 67, served as a California racing steward since 1981 before her appointment as the CHRB's executive director.
Jamgotchian contends Fermin illegally gambled on a horse race while a steward and engaged in illegal activities, cover-ups, and the targeting of certain trainers for investigations during her time as executive director.
In another matter covering stewards, the CHRB voted unanimously to maintain its three-steward jurisdiction for the current Quarter Horse meet at Los Alamitos Race Course and during the upcoming Humboldt County Fair at Ferndale.
A proposal before the board would have reduced the number of stewards as a cost-cutting move. Several industry representatives spoke against the plan.