Removed Indiana HBPA Board Members Appeal to National

A dispute over an e-mail and alleged flyer posted at a southern Indiana training center has resulted in the dismissal of recently elected Indiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association president Jim Riddle and three board members. They have appealed the matter to the National HBPA.

The four officers were named to their positions Nov. 1 after a month-long voting process and removed Nov. 15 in a 6-5 decision by the board after it was determined they had violated organizational bylaws prohibiting campaign materials. Riddle disputes the claims.

"This is the most I've ever been exposed to a miscarriage of justice--it just blows my mind," Riddle said of his removal from office. "We've got an ugly situation."

Riddle, Larry Smallwood, James Hauswald, and Wanda Wheeler are each members of the Indiana Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, which sent an e-mail in October to remind its membership of the upcoming election and list all ITOBA members running for election. Former Indiana HBPA president Don Horrell protested and claimed the reminder, along with a flyer said to have been posted at a training center, violated HBPA bylaws.

Riddle, who has been replaced by trainer Randy Klopp, runner-up in the HBPA election, believes the HBPA board is selectively enforcing its bylaws. He said another ITOBA member, Merrill Roberts, was voted onto the HBPA board but not removed even though his name also appeared in the e-mail distributed to ITOBA membership.

Riddle said noted that he, Smallwood, and Hauswald each resigned ITOBA board positions per HBPA bylaws in order to run for office, and that the e-mail was distributed without their knowledge.

Riddle feels that the HBPA board is selectively enforcing its bylaws, noting that another ITOBA member, Merrill Roberts, was voted onto the board, but not removed despite his name also appearing on the email distributed to ITOBA membership. He also noted that he, Smallwood and Hauswald each resigned ITOBA board positions per HBPA bylaws in order to run for office, and that the email was distributed without their knowledge.

"They're doing things to suit themselves," Riddle said. "They're not going by the bylaws. Things aren't right--it needs to be exposed."

Don Kubovchik, executive director of the Indiana HBPA, disagreed with Riddle's assessment. "The bylaws have been followed to the letter," he said of the board's action. "They're doing what they're supposed to."

Dennis Bialaszewski, secretary for ITOBA, said he made the motion calling for the organization to publicly support all candidates running for HBPA offices. He said he doesn't understand how the e-mail, which closed by stating, "The ITOBA Board of Directors supports our members' efforts in making a difference for Indiana horsemen and horsewomen," could be considered politicking for office.

"I've never, as part of any professional, academic, or community organization, heard where someone couldn't have a vote that the organization or the directors of an organization support an individual," Bialaszewski said. "I've just never heard of that."

Riddle, Smallwood, and Hauswald have filed an appeal with the National HBPA, of which the Indiana HBPA is an affiliate. They also asked John Roark, president and chairman of the National HBPA, to arbitrate the matter, and he agreed to serve as a hearing officer. However, the Indiana HBPA board declined to have Roark mediate the matter.

Kubovchik said the appeal could be heard as early as January. He also said that, had the Indiana board agreed to Roark's offer, it would not have been bound to accept his decision.

"Everything's in flux right now; it's really up to them," Kubovchik said of the National HBPA Executive Committee, which hears appeals. "It's not easy to do because the executive committee is located all over the country."

The National HBPA will hold its winter convention in Tampa, Fla., Jan. 21-25, 2006.