The board of directors of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association on May 13 reinstated executive director Marty Maline, who had been on a paid leave of absence in connection with an internal investigation into the organization's finances.
Raymond Cottrell Sr., an owner representative on the Kentucky HBPA board, said the vote was 6-4 to put Maline back on active duty while the investigation continues. Maline was in the organization's Louisville office the morning of May 14.
Daily Racing Form had reported that the board of directors planned to vote on whether Dr. Alex Harthill should be removed as president of the Kentucky HBPA. Cottrell said there was no vote taken to remove Harthill, and that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the status of Maline, not Harthill.
"Alex said he would go along with the wishes of the board (in regard to Maline)," Cottrell said. "The Kentucky HBPA is in good hands. Mistakes were made, but this has been going on for a few years. The organization has been slipping by not following the bylaws."
On May 14, Harthill, who initiated the probe, said he was still president of the organization. He then said: "I was there at the meeting, and I still don't know what happened. I didn't even know there was supposed to be a vote (on the president's position) All I did was try to save the organization."
One individual who attended the meeting acknowledged that some directors are unhappy with Harthill, but a vote on his status wasn't discussed. Harthill did say one trainer told him he had heard the board wanted to attempt to "impeach" him.
Maline said the investigation at the Kentucky HBPA is ongoing, and that he couldn't comment further. He did say: "It's good to be back, and hopefully everything will move in the right direction. I appreciate all the concerns and well-wishes from horsemen around the country."
Cottrell said he believes the Kentucky HBPA will be a much stronger organization when the matter is resolved.
Joseph Cohen of Louisville took over as interim counsel for the Kentucky HBPA after the resignation of attorney Don Sturgill. John Griffith, the organization's treasurer, resigned the week of April 22. At the time, Cohen said he recommended that an "independent source" be retained to carry out the investigation, which includes a look at the Kentucky HBPA's books.
Maline said there was an interim report given May 13, but it was "fairly innocuous."
The National HBPA formed a task force April 18 to look into potential conflicts of interest by former officers who at the time were connected to the Kentucky HBPA. The National HBPA has an ongoing contract with Choctaw Racing Services, a tribal company that operates about 15 off-track wagering facilities in Oklahoma.
National HBPA president John Roark said Choctaw Racing Services has done nothing wrong. The two entities have a contract whereby the horsemen's group is paid a fee per month for consulting services concerning simulcasts.
Another company, Century Consultants of Illinois, had a deal with previous management at Choctaw Racing Services. The company's president is Rick Hiles, former president of the Kentucky and National HBPAs, and Maline is listed as its secretary in records provided by the Illinois Secretary of State's office. Hiles said the company has done nothing illegal.
Minutes reflect that the National HBPA executive committee requested regular reports on the relationship between Century Consultants and Choctaw Racing Services in 1999. (A high-ranking HBPA official said the regular reports were never produced.) However, it also waived conflicts of interest in negotiations between its counsel (Sturgill) and its vice president (Hiles) and Choctaw Racing Services.
Cohen said the National HBPA issue could be related in some way to the Kentucky HBPA investigation, but that only time would tell.
Meanwhile, the National HBPA task force met May 9, said Charles Town HBPA president Dick Watson, who is heading the panel. Watson said no definitive action was taken, and that the task force continues to gather information in anticipation of the National HBPA's summer convention.