11/23/2004 12:00AM

Desormeaux presses for answers from Guild


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kent Desormeaux, a board member of the Jockeys' Guild, said Tuesday that he has begun an inquiry into the qualifications of the organization's president, L. Wayne Gertmenian.

Desormeaux, a Hall of Fame rider based in California, said he was acting in response to questions raised about claims in Gertmenian's resume that have been difficult to substantiate. The resume is posted on the Internet site of Pepperdine University, where school officials said Gertmenian is a tenured professor.

"We are looking into it, and I am doing the due diligence," Desormeaux said. "There are questions that have to be answered, and they can't be swept under the rug. These are very serious allegations."

Support at the Guild for the inquiry by Desormeaux was difficult to gauge on Tuesday. He said there were nine full members on the board but declined to name any other members who supported his position. Tomey Jean Swan, the chairwoman of the Guild's board, said that Desormeaux's actions had not been authorized by the board and that most board members did not believe an inquiry was necessary.

"Ultimately, the questions about Gertmenian's background are immaterial," Swan said. "The proof is in what he has accomplished for us."

Desormeaux said he plans to complete the inquiry, along with a separate inquiry into concerns over the Guild's financial management, by the time the Guild meets in Irving, Texas, Dec. 5-7, for its annual assembly. The results of the inquiries will be presented to the assembly, Desormeaux said.

"As a collection of jockeys, the Guild has never been stronger," Desormeaux said. "As far as who is going to lead it into tomorrow, that is being discussed."

Swan declined to comment Tuesday when asked about the Guild's financial management, saying that such questions have been biased against the Guild.

Gertmenian was installed as the president of the Guild in 2001, at the same time that his company, Matrix Capital Associates, took over the daily management of the organization.

Earlier this month, the Guild's Senate, a body independent of the board, removed one of the Senate members, Eddie King, after King violated requests by the board not to speak publicly about concerns over the Guild's management. Desormeaux said he voted against King's removal.

King, a rider based in New Jersey and a former treasurer of the Guild, has since filed a lawsuit in a United States district court in New Jersey against the Guild, claiming that the Guild blocked board members from examining its financial statements. The lawsuit alleges that the Guild improperly removed him from the Senate because he was never presented with formal charges before the vote to remove him.

Desormeaux said that the Guild's full board is not typically informed about financial statements and that some board members have been confused by the Guild's financial strategies.

The Guild allowed a supplemental policy that provided up to $1 million in coverage to lapse in 2002 even though financial filings by the Guild showed that the organization had $4.2 million in cash at the end of the year, up from $2.2 million at the start of the year. Jockeys are covered by an accident policy purchased by individual racetracks that pays up to $100,000 for medical bills.

Desormeaux said the Guild's bylaws allowed board members to examine its financial statements. "If I want to see them and I demand that, then I can," Desormeaux said. He said he planned to look over the statements "and much more" but declined to be specific.

On the resume posted on Pepperdine's Internet site, Gertmenian is described as "chief detente negotiator in Moscow for the National Security Council" as well as "emissary to Teheran for the Secretary of Commerce" from 1974 to 1976, during the Nixon and Ford administrations. Official archivists at both the Nixon and Ford libraries have said that those titles did not exist.

Gertmenian has repeatedly failed to respond to requests for comment. On Monday, Gertmenian declined to comment publicly immediately after the first meeting of a task force set up by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association to explore solutions to the problem of adequate and affordable accident insurance for jockeys. The NTRA task force appointed a committe to issue recommendations by the end of the year on how to provide accident insurance for jockeys in which all major components of the industry would pay a share.