Agreement Reached Between California Groups

Dispute between two ownership groups resolved by California Horse Racing Board.

A bitter dispute between two Thoroughbred owners’ groups in California has apparently come to an end after the organizations reached an agreement with the California Horse Racing Board.

The CHRB announced the agreement Nov. 16, stating that after certain conditions are met the Thoroughbred Owners of California “will conduct an election for all seats on its board of directors, and all California Thoroughbred owners will be eligible to vote in that election regardless of whether they hold a second license in some other occupational category.”

The CHRB release said that after the current voting members of the TOC approve several bylaw changes, the open election for all 15 seats on the TOC board will begin Feb. 1, 2012, with votes accepted through March 1.

The California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association had sought to have the TOC decertified as the official organization representing California horsemen, contending the interests of horsemen have not been properly represented by the TOC. TOC has been the official bargaining entity since it was incorporated in 1993.

CTHA had turned in more than 1,100 signatures from TOC members on a Petition of Decertification.

The CHRB said the election under the agreement would eliminate the need for a separate election on the proposed decertification of the TOC as the organization officially representing Thoroughbred owners in California. Should the TOC not approve the bylaw changes, the decertification process would continue.

“We’re pleased that both sides have come together with a reasonable solution,” CHRB chairman Keith Brackpool, who hosted several meetings with representatives of the two groups, said in a statement. “With this issue behind us and the industry working in greater harmony, we hope to resolve other pressing issues as the new year progresses.”

“The TOC is glad that this matter is resolved and urges all its members to support the proposal,” TOC chairman Jack Owens said in the release.

The CHRB said Owens and all TOC board members will voluntarily step down under the agreement to allow for the election of all seats on the board. Owens and the other current directors will be eligible to run for the open seats.

Also on Nov. 16, the TOC announced that Owens was being replaced as president by prominent horse owner Mike Pegram. Owens will remain on the board.

“The CTHA’s primary goal was to end the discriminatory and exclusionary policies of the TOC and provide free and open elections, so that California Thoroughbred owners would be able to choose how they are represented. That goal has been achieved through this negotiated settlement,” CTHA president David Wilson said in a statement.

Under the agreement, the CTHA will name up to 10 candidates on the election ballot.

At its Nov. 17 meeting, the CHRB will consider proposed amendments to the TOC bylaws designed to expand the membership of the TOC and diversify its board of directors and executive committee. If the bylaw amendments are approved, the TOC will begin disseminating ballots on Nov. 23 to its current voting membership asking them to approve the bylaw changes. That voting will conclude Dec. 27.

According to the CHRB, the five proposed bylaw changes fall into two categories. The first category pertains to membership in the TOC. The current bylaws contain certain restrictions on membership. Current TOC members will be asked to open the membership--with full voting rights--without restriction to any person licensed by the CHRB as an owner of a thoroughbred racehorse.

The second category pertains to membership on the TOC board and executive committee. One of the bylaw changes would create two classes of members. The Owner Class would consist of Thoroughbred owners who are not licensed by the CHRB to train horses. The Owner/Trainer Class would consist of Thoroughbred owners who also are licensed as trainers or who may be the spouse of a trainer. Under proposed bylaw amendments, members in the Owner/Trainer Class and their spouses can run for up to 40% of the seats on the TOC board (six of the 15 seats), and at least one of the five directors serving on the executive committee must be in the Owner/Trainer Class. At least one of the Owner/Trainer Class directors must be from Northern California and at least one must be from Southern California, as opposed to all six being from one part of the state.