David J. Roberts resigned on July 16 as director of the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, leaving a position he had held since 2001.
Roberts’ resignation letter, dated July 16, did not cite a reason for his resignation that was effective that day.
But on July 17, he told The Blood-Horse that his resignation was “amicable” and that he is “looking for opportunities in the private sector, and I still would like to be part of the pari-mutuel industry.”
Roberts said he would prefer to remain in Florida, adding that “I would not rule out a position where I would do telecommuting or traveling.”
Joe Dillmore, who had been the Florida DPMW deputy director, was appointed interim director of the division.
“Dave has done a very good job, including (in 2006) beating deadlines for getting rules in place for casinos at pari-mutuels in South Florida,” said Marc Dunbar, an attorney who represents Gulfstream Park and its parent Magna Entertainment Corp.
“I am sure that he will find a position in the industry,” said Dunbar, a partner in the Pennington Law Firm in Tallahassee.
Prior to serving as its director, Roberts was the Florida DPMW legislative director for two years.
“I was there 10 years, and I felt this was a good time to leave and do other things,” said Roberts, 47.
He was appointed Florida DPMW director by Gov. Jeb Bush and retained that job under Gov. Charlie Crist. Both are Republicans. But Dunbar said Florida governors, regardless of party, usually pick a new person for director jobs at most major state agencies.
Crist is running for a U.S. Senate seat in 2010.
“Several of Gov. Crist’s other appointees have resigned during the past month in anticipation of the change,” Dunbar said.
“You don’t want to be caught in a rush out the door,” Roberts said when told of Dunbar’s comment.
“Nobody filed more litigation against the division than I did over the last couple of years,” Dunbar said. “But you could count on Dave to be fair and willing to discuss an issue. He would not carry a grudge.”
Kent Sterling, executive director of tithe Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said, “Dave was always willing to listen to and work with our members. He was always fair when it came to decisions. He will be missed.”
The Florida DPMW regulates the state’s three Thoroughbred tracks and its jai-alai, Greyhound and harness racing facilities for racing and card rooms. It also regulates pari-mutuel casinos, which are permitted only in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
In addition, it licenses and is responsible for any hearings and discipline of trainers and jockeys and their counterparts in the other three sports.
The DPMW has 105 full-time employees, at offices in Tallahassee, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale.
“The division will continue with its good, experienced team,” Roberts said. “The things I am proud of include the oversight we provided of the expansion of card rooms and in setting up our rules and personnel for casinos.”
One of Roberts’ actions during his final weeks with the Florida DPMW was the June 18 issuance of a 60-day suspension to trainer Kirk Ziadie.
The Florida DPMW also fined Ziadie $1,000, citing a case in which one of his horses tested positive for a race-day banned tranquilizer after a 2007 race at Gulfstream Park.
The penalties were just for that 2007 race. But the DPMW ruling listed 12 previous medication violations against Ziadie, totaling $4,850 in fines, and one 15-day suspension. It did not list dates for those penalties.
Ziadie appealed the ruling to the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee on June 26. The court on July 8 put a stay on the suspension pending its final disposition of Ziadie’s appeal. As of July 17, the court was still reviewing the appeal and Ziadie had not started a suspension.
Ziadie has three horses entered in races at Calder Race Course on July 18. Through July 17, he is third in Calder’s 2009 trainer standings with 16 wins. He has won four training titles at Calder and one at Tampa Bay Downs.
Roberts declined to comment on the suspension of Ziadie.