In Call for Unity, National HBPA Rescinds Hiles Ban

A resolution that barred Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association president Rick Hiles from serving as an officer with the National HBPA has been rescinded in what officials said was a move to promote unity in the organization.

In 2002, a National HBPA task force found no evidence of criminal liability on the part of former officers, including Hiles, in connection with Century Consultants, a company formed to help Choctaw Indian casinos land simulcast signals. The task force had been formed to investigate potential conflicts of interest by Hiles, a former National HBPA president; the late Don Sturgill, the former general counsel of the National HBPA; and Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky HBPA. Hiles and Sturgill also served as president and general counsel, respectively, of the Kentucky HBPA when Century Consultants was formed in the late 1990s.

Hiles maintained his innocence throughout the probe. Also in 2002, the board of directors of the Kentucky HBPA voted to terminate its investigation of monetary transactions between Century Consultants and Choctaw Racing Services. No further action was taken, and the matter was dropped.

Hiles was re-elected president of the Kentucky HBPA in the fall of 2006.

At the Feb. 11 National HBPA board of directors meeting in Hot Springs, Ark., Bill Walmsely, vice president of the Southern region for the National HBPA, introduced the Hiles resolution, which also pertains to Maline. Walmsley, of Arkansas, said he has “watched the organization change from an organization full of strife, disagreement, and lack of unity” into one with a sense of cooperation and purpose.

“Rick Hiles bleeds HBPA blue,” Walmsley said. “In order to promote continued unity in the organization and show the organization is big enough to move on, it’s time we rescind the resolution concerning Rick.”

On Feb. 10, it appeared the resolution wouldn’t be brought up at the board meeting because of disagreement among the membership. When the vote was taken, however, all but one of about 30 affiliates--Florida--voted in favor of it.

“I would be shot by my president if I didn’t speak out about this resolution,” said Florida HBPA executive director Kent Stirling, who noted Maline had apologized to the board several years ago. “We need to ask why we adopted the resolution in the first place. Rick has been in denial of these things.”

Stirling then claimed Hiles, who has several horses stabled at Gulfstream Park this winter, told members of the Florida HBPA board that he and Sam Gordon, the president, were ineffective in their recent negotiations with New York off-track betting corporations on a rate for the Gulfstream signal. Hiles, sitting almost across from Stirling during the meeting, said that wasn’t true, and that he has “respect for Sammy Gordon.”

Walmsley stood up and asked the discussion not get personal.

National HBPA president Joe Santanna said the resolution was appropriate, and that a “lifetime sentence” for Hiles isn’t necessary. “We have to find the ability to forgive even if we never forget,” Santanna said.

Last year, the National HBPA accepted the resignation of former president John Roark because of a potential conflict of interest. Roark had publicly stated he planned to become a consultant in the area of account wagering.