The trustees of the New York Racing Association, a target of allegations of wrongdoing and mismanagement, met in private Sept. 24 to devise ways to keep from losing the franchise to operate the state's premier Thoroughbred tracks.
NYRA officials were extremely tight-lipped about the meeting. Its top managers and outside public relations firm either did not return calls for comment or refused to talk.
Sources said the board was moving to reduce the day-to-day management responsibilities of NYRA president Terry Meyocks, who has been with NYRA since 1993. Meyocks, whose daughter was in a car accident Sept. 23, did not return calls for comment.
Sources said Meyocks would still oversee racing operations at the tracks. It was unclear whether the trustees actually approved the change in work responsibilities for Meyocks, or were still mulling over the plan. A formal announcement could come as early as Sept. 26.
Meyocks, 52, came under heavy criticism from New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who issued a scathing report this year that said NYRA executives overlooked widespread problems at the tracks. His allies in the racing industry, led by NYRA chairman Barry Schwartz and his mentor, Kenneth Noe, sought to beat back attempts to dismiss Meyocks.
In line to take a more active role in NYRA management are two NYRA trustees with a career of financial experience. They are C. Steven Duncker, formerly with Goldman Sachs, and Peter Karches, former president of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Institutional Securities Group.
The tense board meeting was called just a week after state Comptroller Alan Hevesi called for a number of changes at NYRA in the wake of a critical audit he released. Hevesi's plan included creation of an independent inspector general to oversee its financial operations.
Also on the agenda at the Sept. 24 meeting was the issue of whether NYRA dipped into the purse account. There are thousands of horsemen who maintain money in the account from winnings, with amounts ranging from modest sums to well over $100,000. NYRA over time borrowed in excess of $14 million from the fund to help pay operating expenses.
Richard Bomze, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said his group has investigators going through NYRA's books to get to the bottom of the purse-account matter.
"We want to work with NYRA to get it settled amicably between us and them just as soon as we can," Bomze said. "We want to settle it with them. I like NYRA. We want NYRA to run our racing."
Bomze said one possibility is to have the horsemen run their own purse account.
Meanwhile, the state Racing and Wagering Board has issued a show cause order to 10 NYRA clerks on why their licenses to work in the industry should not be suspended or revoked. The board cited their "financial responsibility, character and general fitness'' as being "inconsistent'' with the public interest for allegations involving taking money from their cash drawers. Nineteen clerks have already been convicted of crimes involving illegal activities over the past couple years, including money laundering and evading taxes.
The racing board show cause order involving the 10 clerks has a Nov. 13 return date, according to documents the board released Thursday morning. The
clerks are Annette Kenniff, Barbara Fasone, Matthew Lamacchia, Dennis Cook,
Gerald Pontrelli, Dennis King, James Mallon, August Castiglia, James
Boggiano and Robert Mallon. All are from the New York City metropolitan