NYRA Reviewing Management Practices

By Associated Press

After meeting with its newly hired security consultant, the New York Racing Association on Wednesday said it has begun a review of its practices already under investigation by state and federal authorities.

NYRA officials refused to release findings from a preliminary report or comment on the closed-door meeting beyond a three-paragraph statement. The internal effort comes after state audits and reports dating to 1995 detailed management concerns from a lack of competitive bidding on contracts to the accounting of cash handled by betting window clerks.

Nineteen NYRA workers have been convicted in recent years and federal and state investigations continue.

"There have been many critical studies for many years related to NYRA's behavior from many sources," said state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who issued a scathing report on NYRA in June. "Hopefully we're now at the moment that affirmative changes will be put in place, but until I see what those changes are, I am neither going to be supportive or critical."

NYRA officials said the board heard a briefing Wednesday from Howard Safir, a former New York City police commissioner. His firm, SafirRosetti, was hired to review security, money handling and other business practices at NYRA tracks as state and federal authorities probe track management.

Trustee Stuart Subotnick, chairman of the Special Oversight Committee, said Safir would have "full authority" to review NYRA.

"The board will promptly address any concerns raised by SafirRosetti," Subotnick said.

Kenny Juarez, recently hired by NYRA to handle public relations, refused to answer questions on the Safir contract, including its cost. Juarez also refused to say if the contract was competitively bid, as required by state racing law.

NYRA on Wednesday provided a section of state law that allows contracts to be awarded without competitive bidding in an emergency. But a state Racing and Wagering Board official said hiring the firm wouldn't qualify as an emergency.

Executive Director Edward Martin said the board is still awaiting a copy of the Safir contract the state regulator requested three weeks ago.

"We would certainly be curious as to what findings have been shared with NYRA," Martin said.