John Veitch

John Veitch

Anne M. Eberhardt

Veitch Appeals Dismissal as KY Chief Steward

Contends he was improperly classified and therefore improperly dismissed.

John Veitch, who was dismissed Nov. 28 from his position as chief steward for the state of Kentucky, has filed an appeal of the action by the Public Protection Cabinet, contending he was improperly dismissed.

In the Nov. 30 appeal, Veitch said he was terminated “without cause” by the Public Protection Cabinet.

“My job as chief state steward is not listed under KRS 18A.115 as an ‘unclassified employee’; therefore, by statute, I am a classified employee,” the appeal states. “As a classified employee, I can only be fired for cause... I was entitled to notice of the Cabinet’s intent to dismiss me pursuant to KRS 18A.095 (2). I was entitled to an opportunity to be heard before I was dismissed pursuant to KRS 18A.095 (4) and (5). The Cabinet violated KRS 18A.095 by failing to (1) show cause for my termination; (2) provide me with any notice; and (3) provide me with an opportunity to he heard.”

Additionally, Veitch contends that even if he is found to be an unclassified employee, “the Cabinet illegally terminated due to my age (66 years old). KRS 18A.095 (14)(a) provides ‘any employee who believes that he has been discriminated against, may appeal to the board.’ For that reason, I am entitled to be reinstated.

“In the addition and in the alternative, even if I am found to be an unclassified employee, the Cabinet illegally terminated for asserting my statutory and constitutional rights to defend myself in an action brought against me by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.”

Veitch’s dismissal came at a time when a hearing officer was in the process of completing a final report from an investigation and hearings held this summer regarding the performance of Life At Ten during the 2010 Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Robert Layton, who is the chief hearing officer for the Office of Administrative Hearings within the Energy and Environment Cabinet, is drafting the report based on three days of hearings conducted June 28-30. Earlier this month, Layton requested and received a 30-day extension to complete his report.

Brice “Rick” Williams, assistant director of the Kentucky Breeders’ Incentive Fund, has been named interim chief steward and the KHRC plans to conduct a national search for a permanent steward.

Life At Ten, owned by Candy DeBartolo and trained by Todd Pletcher, finished last in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) as the second choice at odds of 7-2. With jockey John Velazquez aboard, Life At Ten had no run when the field left the gate, and she was not persevered with throughout the race.

The KHRC launched an investigation that included a review of comments Velazquez made to retired jockey Jerry Bailey, who was working as an announcer on the ESPN coverage of the Breeders’ Cup. Prior to the race, Velazquez told Bailey that Life At Ten was not warming up as she normally does, but did not relay those concerns to the stewards or any KHRC veterinarians.

The KHRC found probable cause that Velazquez and Veitch had violated rules of racing in connection with the incident. Though he did not admit to violating any rules of racing, Velazquez paid a $10,000 fine, half of which went to charity.

Veitch has said he did nothing wrong in his handling of the case and that the charges against him are due in part to disagreements between him and KHRC executive director Lisa Underwood over handling of disciplinary matters.

Underwood last month announced she was resigning, effective Nov. 16, to become partner in a Lexington law firm.