NYRA Hires New Chief Financial Officer

The New York Racing Association, poised to make major reorganizational changes in a bid to keep its racing franchise intact, has hired a new high-level executive to oversee its much-criticized finances.

Little is known about J. William Byrne, 55, who has been hired as NYRA's new chief financial officer. He quietly applied last week to the state Racing and Wagering Board, which is now processing his background check before deciding whether to grant him a state license to stay in the job.

The board, according to spokeswoman Stacy Clifford, has granted Byrne a temporary certification while a routine State Police background check is done. He replaces Alex Ingle, who left NYRA at least a year ago.

Kenny Juarez, a NYRA spokesman, declined comment on Byrne's hiring.

NYRA's finances have been the subject of growing scrutiny from state and federal auditors and prosecutors. NYRA has meet this week with the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn, which has been weighing whether to indict NYRA or any of its officers in connection with charges of widespread fiscal mismanagement and fraud.

NYRA trustees held a closed-door meeting Wednesday to discuss its future. On the table, sources said, was a discussion to move NYRA President Terry Meyocks, the subject of intense criticism by state officials, into a new role dedicated almost exclusively to racing issues. A new individual would then be brought in to take over the operational side.

Meyocks Friday night would not comment on Byrne or any other matters at NYRA. "Stay tuned,'' he said.

"Other than my family, the success of NYRA is the most important thing for me. If this reorganization in any way will strengthen and enhance NYRA then that's what should be done,'' Meyocks said.

Asked what reorganization he was referring to, Meyocks said, "I'm sure something's going to be done.''

A slew of options have been discussed, including the hiring of some unknown individual from a Japanese banking company. Also, the board has discussed having two of its members with longtime financial expertise -- C. Steven Duncker and Peter Karches -- assume more of a day-to-day role in NYRA's operations. NYRA leaders, including chairman Barry Schwartz, Duncker and Karches, have not returned repeated calls for comment this week.

It is unclear how Byrne's hiring fits into the strategy being mapped out at this week's NYRA meeting since his application for licensure came into the state racing board on September 17.