Florida Affiliate Rejoins National HBPA

The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which negotiates contracts at Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park, has rejoined the National HBPA after having voted to leave the fold last fall.

The Florida HBPA board met with National HBPA president John Roark and Ontario HBPA president Conrad Cohen May 2 during a session described as "heated" by the Florida HBPA. The Florida board, then headed by president Linda Mills, voted 8-6 to leave the national organization.

"It was a unanimous vote (to rejoin)," Florida HBPA executive director Kent Stirling said May 4.

"I greatly appreciate the Florida HBPA's decision to give me and the National HBPA an opportunity to come down and visit with them to discuss several issues which had cropped up over the past year," Roark said in a statement. "My desire to mend fences and the Florida HBPA board's desire to sit down and talk led to some frank but very important dialogue and re-established the line of communication that had been lacking during the past year."

The Florida HBPA in a release said new president Sam Gordon has sought to unite a formerly "dysfunctional board" since his election in April. The organization said it "addressed some of the grievances" Mills had with Roark and the National HBPA.

The Florida HBPA board had tabled a vote on National HBPA membership three times before last November's defection. Mills and Roark clashed at times, though Mills said a major reason for the defection was a hike in dues from $25,000, which had been the top level.

Mills had served three one-year terms and didn't run again.

Before the split with the National HBPA, Mills had resigned as chairman of the National HBPA Insurance Committee. During the National HBPA summer convention in Ohio in 2003, Roark defeated Mills in a two-person election for president. Mills has said the election wasn't a factor in the split.

The Florida HBPA has rejoined the National HBPA for one year at its previous dues level. Said Gordon in a release: "I'm looking forward to working with the National this coming year, and hope this is the beginning of a long and lasting relationship."

The Florida affiliate is expected to attend this year's summer convention in Ontario, Canada. Stirling said he would again serve as chairman of the National HBPA Medication Committee after having been temporarily replaced by Dr. Thomas Tobin given Florida's defection.

In a recent interview, Roark said he hadn't yet decided whether he would run again for National HBPA president. He has served for almost four years.