Kentucky HBPA Probe Ends Amid Accusations

by Kathleen Adams

The board of directors of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has voted to terminate its investigation of monetary transactions between Century Consultants, an organization with close ties to the Kentucky HBPA and Choctaw Racing Services.

The board took the action June 24 after meeting for six hours behind closed doors. But before the meeting was deemed closed to the public, Kentucky HBPA president Dr. Alex Harthill passed out a letter in which he urged members to either support the current investigation or call for the new election of board members and the office of president.

The two-page letter also accused some board members of trying to thwart the investigation by cutting off payments to the investigative team and to the Kentucky HBPA's interim counsel, Joseph Cohen. Harthill also wrote he had been informed that Richard Rangel, the auditor selected last April to review the organization's financial transactions and appointed to act as treasurer, had been personally threatened and has gone into hiding.

Also attached to the letter was a copy of correspondence Harthill received from attorney Charles Ricketts, who prior to June 24, had been investigating possible wrongdoing involving several members of the Kentucky HBPA and Choctaw Racing Services.

At issue is whether the former general counsel of the Kentucky HBPA, Don Sturgill, former president Rick Hiles, current executive director Marty Maline, and two others acted illegally when their company, Century Consultants, received about $125,000 from Choctaw Racing Services for simulcast signals from Kentucky racetracks.

Ricketts wrote to Harthill in a confidential memo dated May 10, 2002, that "there is no such judicial or statutory authority, as best as we can determine, for organizations such as Century Consultants, Choctaw Racing, and the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association to place themselves within this decision-making process."

In the memo, Ricketts suggested Century Consultants had possibly violated the Interstate Horse Racing Act, which prescribes the manner in which horsemen's groups approve the dissemination of simulcast signals by host facilities. But with the investigation incomplete, Ricketts wasn't able to state conclusively one way or another whether any Kentucky HBPA board members had broken the law.