Congress Subpoenas Jockeys' Guild President

U.S. Congress issued two subpoenas Tuesday for Jockeys' Guild president Wayne Gertmenian as part of an ongoing investigation into the organization spearheaded up by U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield.

Whitfield, a Republican who represents Kentucky and serves as chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, claims Gertmenian and his staff did not adequately fulfill a subcommittee's earlier request for information about Guild management, accounting, and payroll as well as documents regarding health insurance policies for its nearly 1,200 members.

The subpoenas call for Gertmenian to produce the requested information by Oct. 3, but do not require Gertmenian to appear before Congress, Whitfield's spokesman Jeff Miles said Wednesday. The subcommittee is planning a hearing on the matter in October, Miles said.

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, under which the subcommittee falls, issued the subpoenas Tuesday evening, after they were authorized by the subcomittee last week.

Gertmenian's consulting firm Matrix Capital Associates took over management of the Guild in 2001.

Whitfield first requested the information in an April 20 letter, in connection with an ongoing investigation by the subcommittee concerning the adequacy of on-track accident insurance for jockeys and the absence of such injury-related health insurance for many exercise riders and backstretch workers. The investigation began in January.

A warning of the subpoena came in a follow-up letter Aug. 17 in which Whitfield claimed the Guild's production of requested materials was of "poor quality." Whitfield set a new Aug. 31 deadline for the Guild to provide information.

Whitfield's last letter stated the subcommittee staff had persistently asked for additional material and discussed "major deficiencies" in the Guild's document production with Guild general counsel, Lloyd Ownbey, but there was little improvement.

Whitfield further wrote the subcommittee staff concluded after visiting the Guild's offices during the week of July 18, and interviewing the Guild's chief financial officer, Gevork Asatryan, that the Guild has not provided numerous relevant documents, including e-mails.

In response, Ownbey wrote in an Aug. 31 letter that Whitfield's investigation is "misdirected" and is not fulfilling the original intent of the investigation -- that is to gain an understanding of current heath and safety issues in the horseracing industry and how they pertain to human participants.

"Embedded in Congressman's Whitfield's letter, however are questions suggesting the Guild and its current management have failed the jockeys riding in the 38 pari-mutuel racing states," Ownbey wrote.

"Despite the accusatory nature of Congressman Whitfield's letter, we have provided in excess of one and a half business boxes of documents (covering the past six-plus years of Guild operations)," Ownbey continued. "We have also made available the entire staff of the Guild as well as many past and present officers for unrepresented meetings with the subcommittee's investigators."