NYRA to Cooperate With Comptroller

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said tax payers have right to know

The New York Racing Association, as expected, backed down from its refusal to cooperate with a review of its finances by the state’s chief fiscal watchdog.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli last month issued subpoenas seeking the financial records after NYRA officials went to the media raising concerns about running out of money later this spring forcing it to possibly have to scuttle the Belmont Stakes. NYRA refused to cooperate, to the surprise of some NYRA board members, saying DiNapoli has no jurisdiction over its finances.

“In 2008, taxpayers paid for a second chance for NYRA,’’ DiNapoli said in a statement today referring to last year’s award of a 25-year franchise extension for NYRA that also included another large financial bailout.

“NYRA then turned around and thumbed its nose at those same taxpayers and refused to open its books to my auditors. It’s our job to protect taxpayer dollars. Fortunately, NYRA had a change of heart in response to my subpoenas. New Yorkers have a right to know what NYRA’s up to, and my audit will let them know.”

NYRA officials have said part of their financial woes is the state’s doing because the Paterson administration and state lawmakers have yet to seal a deal on the long-delayed Aqueduct casino project, which will provide operating aid help for NYRA in the form of revenue-sharing payments.

When DiNapoli issued his subpoena, NYRA unleashed a rhetorical slap against the fiscal watchdog, saying its books could be kept secret from him and that it is already one of the most “pervasively’’ regulated private companies in New York.

"Any suggestion that the taxpayers are placed at risk by the constitutional prohibition on comptroller's audits of NYRA is misleading,'' NYRA said at the time.

The DiNapoli subpoena is wide-ranging, seeking all documents pertaining to money provided to NYRA from the state in 2008 and 2009, as well as information on all its expenditures, including salaries and outside contracts.

In a three-paragraph letter on Jan. 12 to the comptroller’s office, NYRA counsel Patrick Kehoe said NYRA now has “no objection’’ to the DiNapoli subpoena and that the racing group will cooperate. He did not elaborate.

"We are complying,'' said Dan Silver, a NYRA spokesman. He declined further comment.