Kentucky Report Issues Recommendations For Panel

The Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts, in an Aug. 5 report, suggested the Kentucky Racing Commission do away with the executive director's position on its Backside Improvement Commission, maintain a special account for private purchases, and reduce the number of individuals who receive pins that previously allowed them access to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby.

The examination by Ed Hatchett Jr., Kentucky's auditor of public accounts, came in response to a "citizen's complaint," according to a letter that accompanies the document. In keeping with policy, the auditor of public accounts only makes recommendations.

The Backside Improvement Commission, formed in 1980, is funded by a percentage of pari-mutuel handle at Ellis Park and Turfway Park for improvements and programs on the backstretch. The commission hasn't met since 2001 and oversees six or less transactions a year with the two racetracks, the report said.

The executive director currently makes $66,916 a year, but with fringe benefits the compensation package is almost $80,000, the report said. "This cost to the fund is grossly excessive...a full-time executive director is not necessary for these minimal duties," the report said.

Kim Morgeson Stewart, who previously had a relationship with racing commission chairman Frank Shoop, holds the position. The report said Stewart was frequently on leave, but the racing commission, in a written response, defended Stewart in light of ongoing health problems.

As for the pins, Churchill stopped accepting them this year on Oaks and Derby Days. About 500 pins were ordered in 2001 and 2002, but the number dropped to 332 this year. In 2001, almost $8,000 in state money was used to pay for production of the pins.

The auditor's report said the racing commission should reduce the number of individuals eligible for pins, and also discontinue purchase of racetrack passes given to individuals connected with horse racing.

The report also said a special account should be used only for private purchases. The report said money from the special account was used to purchase pins, passes, julep cups, and in one instance to pay a consultant $1,200 for his help in evaluating the state's equine drug-testing contract.

The racing commission, in its response, agreed with the recommendations and said it would make the necessary adjustments.