Trainer Jami Poole, who lost the race for president of the Mountaineer Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association by only eight votes, has officially protested the organization’s recent election.
The election, results of which were made official Jan. 5, was hotly contested and controversial. At least one individual offered a reward for information related to a flyer that was critical of the leadership of the horsemen’s group.
Trainer Chuck Bailey, the incumbent president, won re-election. Bailey’s wife, Lora, is the executive director of the group that represents horsemen at Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort in West Virginia.
Poole, who comes from a family of trainers who have raced mostly in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio, said he tried to get the names of the about 2,800 people eligible to vote to ensure they received ballots. He alleged Lora Bailey kept the election committee in the dark.
“She was running the election,” Poole said. “She had the phone numbers and wouldn’t let me have them. They also hired a telemarketer to make calls for them. Under the bylaws, when you pay someone to make calls, that’s campaigning. You are allowed to personally call people.”
Poole also said Cheryl Walker, who has served as secretary of the Mountaineer HBPA, could be out of a job because she is friends with him. “She hasn’t done anything for me she wouldn’t do for anybody else on the backstretch,” he said.
Lora Bailey said Poole would be notified of a hearing date for his protest. “I really can’t comment on any of (the allegations) at this time,” she said. “We have to give them a hearing.”
In an earlier interview, she said: “We tried to make sure (the election) was done right.”
Poole said he hired an attorney who was scheduled to talk with National HBPA officials about the election. The Mountaineer HBPA asked the National HBPA to count the ballots rather than hiring an auditor.
“It was a pretty tough campaign on both sides,” National HBPA executive director Remi Bellocq said. “Our role, if we are invited by both parties, is to serve as a hearing officer. The appeal must go through local bylaws and be copied to the National HBPA. If they want to bring in the National HBPA, we’d be happy to do so and review procedures.”
Last year, the National HBPA was asked to step in to review affiliate elections in Alabama and Indiana.
The controversial flyer blasted Mountaineer HBPA leadership and, for example, blamed it for the situation in which Gov. Joe Manchin took about $3 million from local horsemen’s video lottery terminal revenue to support a state workers’ compensation program. (All tracks in the state were impacted by the move.) A few Mountaineer HBPA board members indicated use of National HBPA letterhead on the flyer could have led voters to believe the National HBPA was suggesting local HBPA leaders weren’t properly serving the membership.
Because of on-track VLT gaming, racing at Mountaineer has become a lucrative business for owners, trainers, and jockeys. Purses totaled $37.6 million over 229 days of racing in 2006 at a track where four to five $5,000 claiming races are offered many nights.
Aside from the president, Bailey, the new board of directors from the protested election is as follows: Robert Bedner, Rebecca Demczyk, Theresia Mahan, Richard Tomaselli, and Rembrant Wright (owner directors); and Loren Cox, Douglas Johnson, S. Matthew Kintz, T. Gail Morrow, and Michael Pappada (owner/trainer directors).