07/30/2003 11:00PM

Audit sent to NYRA; purses are cited

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NEW YORK - New York State's comptroller, Alan Hevesi, has distributed a draft report of an audit of the New York Racing Association to NYRA officials, a spokesman for Hevesi said on Thursday.

NYRA has 30 days to respond to the audit from the date of its distribution but can request an additional 30 days as an extension. After NYRA responds, the comptroller will issue a final report that includes NYRA's conclusions about the draft.

Hevesi's spokesman, Dan Weiller, declined to comment on details of the audit on Thursday or to disclose when it was distributed to NYRA. He also declined to provide the draft audit, citing the office's policy.

Several details of the draft audit were published Thursday by the Albany Times-Union. The article said that the audit has concluded that NYRA failed to pay horsemen $2 million in purses in 2001 and that NYRA had inappropriately deducted $3.5 million in interest payments on loans.

According to the article, the audit said NYRA should retrieve $52,000 from its former chairman, Kenneth Noe, in payments NYRA made to Noe in 2001 and 2002 from a supplemental retirement fund. Noe retired in 2000.

Barry Schwartz, the chairman of NYRA, declined on Thursday to comment on the report. "We have 30 days, and we'll respond to it," he said.

Bob Flynn, the executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said his organization was notified of the alleged $2 million purse underpayment in December 2002, by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. He said the matter is currently being reviewed by NYRA, horsemen, and regulators.

Flynn said that the horsemen had hired an independent auditor to determine if NYRA and other New York racetracks had followed the law correctly. He said the horsemen, regulators, and NYRA officials have agreed to meet at the end of the Saratoga meet in early September to discuss the issue.

"This is a very complicated issue, and it might be because of a misinterpretation of the statute, which is very confusing at times," Flynn said. "It could be that [the racetracks are] wrong on their side, or we could be wrong on our side. It's very confusing. To say to NYRA, 'We want that money right now' would be very inappropriate."