John Campo III is an attorney in Phoenix who breeds and races Thoroughbreds at Turf Paradise. He's seen the quality of racing and purses deteriorate there, and thinks the board of directors for the Arizona Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association could use some fresh blood as tit prepares to negotiate a new contract with track owner Jerry Simms.
Campo put his name up to run for the AHBPA board of directors but was told that, because of a clause in the organization's bylaws, he was not eligible unless he resigned from the board of directors of another horsemen's organization, the Arizona Thoroughbred Breeders Association.
He refused to do so, and Campo's name was not allowed to go on the ballot.
What struck Campo as odd was the fact three sitting AHBPA board members – Bill Matthews, Filippo Santoro and Lee Vaughn – are current members of the same ATBA board. Matthews and Santoro are running for reelection without having to resign from the ATBA board.
AHBPA president J. Lloyd Yother said the clause prohibiting a board member simultaneously sitting on “any other opposing horsemen's group” board has been in effect since 1984. He said he only learned of the restriction in December.
That's when the board voted a waiver for Matthews and Santoro, allowing them to serve on both the AHBPA and ATBA boards. Vaughn is not running for re-election because he has not had enough runners to retain eligibility. Ballots were mailed earlier this week and are due back April 17.
“They are good board members,” Yother said of Matthews and Santoro. “They have served in the past and are currently serving. The board thought they shouldn't penalize them.”
Why, then, was Campo not given the same waiver?
“We are enforcing the bylaws,” Yother said. “I have been in this a few years, and I believe running an organization by the bylaws, whether they are good, bad or indifferent. I'm not saying we've got a problem with Campo. He's an experienced attorney. He should know the circumstances.”
Yother said Campo was told he was required to resign three months prior to the election. Mike Chambers, another non-incumbent candidate for the AHBPA board, resigned from the ATBA board in order to run.
Isn't this selective enforcement of bylaws by Yother and the current AHBPA board? Yother wouldn't say yes or no.
“I've got some things going with the legislature,” Yother said. “The last thing I need is to get a bunch in here that want to change things.”
“The board changed the rules to suit themselves,” said Campo, “to keep existing people in there. I'd like to see a whole new board, one that is speaking on behalf of horsemen. They need people with business experience for when they negotiate a new contract.”
The current AHBPA board also reduced the number of board seats from 10 to seven. Was this done to make it easier for incumbents to maintain control?
“We reduced the number because of non-participation,” said Yother.
Yother said a priority of the AHBPA going forward is elimination or reduction of the Regulatory Wagering Assessment initiated under former Gov. Jan Brewer that requires the track and horsemen to pay for the racing division of the Arizona Department of Gaming's regulatory oversight. “We have to pay $2.3 million a year for regulation,” Yother said. “We have given them $9,583,000 over a six-year period directly from purses.
“We used to get $800,000 for the breed program,” he added. “Last year I got $200,000 for breeders. In this year's budget they took it out.
“Turf Paradise is on life support,” Yother continued. “We need some form of alternative gaming. We need to get rid of the (Regulatory Wagering Assessment).”
The HBPA's relationship with track owner Simms “is the best it's been in a number of years,” said Yother. “People on the other side don't agree with that, but I think we've got a better relationship than we've ever had. We're together. Management respects us more now than they have in the past.”
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