Ethics Panel Issues Opinion on Ward, KHRC

Ethics Panel Issues Opinion on Ward, KHRC
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Donna Ward

An ethics panel has said that Donna Ward can continue to train horses in Kentucky but not race them at tracks in the state once her husband, John Ward, becomes executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

The eight-page opinion, written by Executive Branch Ethics Commission executive director John Steffen and approved by the commission March 19, came at the request of John Ward, who, along with his wife operate a stable that races primarily in Florida, New York, and Kentucky. John Ward, 66, who was a member of the KHRC before being appointed to oversee the regulatory body, has said he will relinquish his trainer’s license once he becomes executive director of the KHRC on April 1.

Ward, who appeared before the ethics commission, said there were no surprises in the opinion. He said he sought clarification from the ethics panel so there “would be no whispers in the background” once he began performing his duties as executive director.

According to the opinion, Donna Ward can continue to train horses at the couple’s Sugar Grove Farm near Paris, Ky., and can race them at tracks outside Kentucky, but should not have horses entered at any tracks regulated by the KHRC.

“It is the commission’s opinion that if your wife was to hold a KHRC license as a trainer and train horses for your stables at a location under the jurisdiction of the KHRC, a substantial conflict of interest would exist for you,” the opinion stated.

Also, while John Ward could continue to hold a trainer’s license and train outside Kentucky while also holding his state position, the ethics opinion noted that activity would be deemed “outside employment” and would need approval of your “appointing authority” before it could be conducted.

While the commission said the Wards can continue to advise clients at Kentucky horse sales, the opinion, signed by ethics commission chairman Ronald L. Green stated, “It is the commission’s opinion that the involvement of you or your wife in horse sales in Kentucky, either directly or through your stables, would not in general create an actual conflict of interest, but will require that you exercise a heightened awareness of the Executive Branch Code of Ethics in order to avoid creating a conflict or the appearance of impropriety.”

The opinion also stated that the Wards should refrain from providing boarding, breeding, or training services at their farm for clients who are currently licensed by the KHRC, but that they can provide such services for non-KHRC licensees. Again, the panel said Ward should be cautious to avoid any potential conflicts should they arise from his participation in this part of his business.

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