National HBPA: No Evidence of Criminal Liability

A National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association task force has found no evidence of criminal liability on the part of former officers and the executive director of an affiliate in connection with Century Consultants, a company formed to help Indian casinos land simulcast signals.

The task force was formed this spring to investigate potential conflicts of interest by former Rick Hiles and Don Sturgill, the former president and general counsel, respectively, of the National HBPA; and Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky HBPA. Hiles and Sturgill also served as president and general counsel, respectively, of the Kentucky HBPA when Century Consultants was formed in the late 1990s.

The task force said there is evidence of civil liability on the part of Hiles and Sturgill. The National HBPA board of directors concurred with the report during its summer convention July 21 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The task force found that a January 1999 executive committee motion was "clearly intended" to waive potential conflict of interest with regard to negotiations on behalf of the National HBPA and not for the formation of Century Consultants. The task force said Hiles and Sturgill didn't report their involvement in the company to the executive committee of the National HBPA.

Officials couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

The National HBPA for several years has had a deal with Choctaw Racing Services of Oklahoma to assist the organization in obtaining simulcast signals at off-track wagering outlets. The National HBPA, under a revised contract, now earns $5,000 a month for its role.

The task force's findings come a few weeks after the Kentucky HBPA board of directors cut short an investigation into alleged financial misdeeds said to be connected to Century Consultants. Kentucky HBPA president Dr. Alex Harthill because he believes the probe should have continued.

In a confidential memo, Charles Ricketts, the lead investigator, strongly urged the Kentucky HBPA to continue the probe, which hinted at possible federal violations by Century Consultants, Choctaw Racing Services, and horsemen's groups.

The National HBPA board decided to keep its task force in place, and also recommended that a bylaw regarding conflicts of interest be adopted.

In other business, the National HBPA board is planning a workers' compensation conference in conjunction with the American Quarter Horse Association and the University of Arizona Racetrack Industry Program. It could be held the week of Dec. 9 as part of the Symposium on Racing in Tucson, Ariz.