Charles Town Horsemen's Group in Flux Yet Again

The president and vice president of the Charles Town Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association have resigned, and a West Virginia owner/breeder who headed the organization when video lottery terminals were introduced in the mid-1990s has again taken over as president.

Wayne Harrison resigned as president effective Jan. 8, while David Walters resigned as vice president effective Jan. 1. Randy Funkhouser, who headed the Charles Town HBPA in the early to mid-1990s, has been elevated to president given the resignations. He operates O'Sullivan Farms, one of the top Thoroughbred breeding operations in the area.

In addition, executive director Brande Larrimore has resigned, reportedly for personal reasons. The organization currently has no executive director.

Harrison won a seat on the Charles Town HBPA board of directors in 2003, and took over as president after Ann Hilton resigned only a few months later. Hilton won the presidency in 2003 in a contentious election in which former president Dick Watson was ousted.

In his resignation letter, Harrison said he had agreed to serve as president for only one year, and that he has personal commitments, including his Maryland-based business, that need attention.

"I sincerely believe a president who can be more available in Charles Town on a daily basis will now better serve the HBPA," the letter said.

Walters, in his letter of resignation, said he worked for the benefit of horsemen but now believes "the general membership of horsemen believe I have not fulfilled those duties. I do not want to stand in the way of other board members who are certainly more capable of doing this job."

Last year, Watson called for a special election in the wake of what he called repeated attempts by Harrison and the Charles Town HBPA board of directors to discredit him and his wife, Janene, the former executive director.

The Charles Town HBPA sued Watson for allegedly using HBPA funds for his personal benefit. Last summer, he apologized to horsemen in a letter and said the civil suit had been mediated and settled, but claimed no bylaws were broken. Watson and his wife subsequently were expelled from the HBPA for two years--a period that will keep him from running for office in the next regular election in December 2006.

The Charles Town HBPA is the third National HBPA affiliate to have a management shakeup in the past month and a half. HBPA boards in Indiana and Ohio ousted their presidents in December; the Indiana situation is subject to an appeal that will be heard by the National HBPA executive committee during its winter convention in Tampa, Fla., Jan. 21-25.