11/15/2005 12:00AM

Dr. G. finds his real-life Lilliput


TUCSON, Ariz. - It is not exactly Gulliver's Travels, but there are strong overtones in racing events in recent weeks of Jonathan Swift's satiric tale of the little men of Lilliput.

In the current version it appears the nation's jockeys finally have tied down their Gulliver, L. Wayne Gertmenian. But in this version - Gertmenian's Travels - the big guy is not the good guy. The jockeys, more than 200 of them from 12 different tracks coast-to-coast, have swarmed over Gertmenian like the Lilliputians over Lemuel Gulliver.

Gertmenian is the man of mystery who sold Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron on the idea that his career as an economist and a supposed high agent for the Nixon and Ford administrations was a perfect background for a leader of the Jockeys' Guild.

McCarron then sold the idea to the nation's jockeys, and they installed Gertmenian four years ago as ruler and master of their domain. He remained there strong and secure until the trappings began to unwind recently in congress, where the Subcommittee of Oversight and Investigations of the U.S. House of Representatives found it difficult to verify any of Gertmenian's claims of high government service. McCarron told the subcommittee that his earlier support of Gertmenian was "the worst mistake of my life."

Gertmenian has academic credentials, a master's degree from the University of Idaho and a Ph.D. from Southern Cal. He teaches and lectures here and in China and, he says, "advises Russian leaders on free-market economy." He was smart enough to get the jocks to pay him an annual salary of $165,000, plus another $335,000 a year to Matrix Capital Associates, which turns out to be L. Wayne Gertmenian, sole owner and operator.

I get nervous when Ph.D.s go around calling themselves doctor, and I get really concerned when one writes a six-page, single-spaced dossier about his achievements and accomplishments and contributions to culture. Those things are called curriculum vitae, and my dictionary describes them as "brief biographical details about one's career." Six pages of that kind of stuff, even though it may be fairly routine in the academic world, really should be written by someone else.

Gertmenian started his by saying he "served the Nixon and Ford administrations as a chief detente negotiator in Moscow for the chairman of the National Security Council, as an emissary to Teheran for the Secretary of Commerce, and as a special assistant to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development."

You would think that list would be rather easy to verify, simply by going to government records. But the House subcommittee's staff and its chairman, Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, found it difficult to confirm, and one man who did serve in Teheran for four years during the period in question - John Stempel, who spent 24 years in the U.S. Foreign Service and now is director of the Patterson School of Diplomacy at the University of Kentucky - says, "I can guarantee you he never showed up in Teheran as an emissary of anybody."

Gertmenian says of all this, "You're not hearing any anger out of me," but he did bridle about his overseas duties being questioned and being asked for documentation. "If somebody tells you that you don't have a foot, you don't take your shoe off to see if the foot is there," Gertmenian told The Blood-Horse.

Whitfield called the Jockeys' Guild under Gertmenian "uncooperative" and responses to his committee's questions "inadequate," and as the yarn began to unwind, a longtime attorney and lobbyist for the Guild, Barry Broad, quit, saying he had had enough. This week he was advising the 11 members of the Guild senate on the somewhat complicated procedure of how to untie Gulliver and get him off the island.

It is not a simple process. The senate cannot, under Guild bylaws, make management changes, that being a prerogative of the board of directors. But the senate can change the bylaws, and if members vote to do so and give themselves the power to appoint a new board, it can meet at once and toss Gertmenian overboard on a simple majority vote. That is exactly what it did Tuesday.

Broad says that the new administration will insist on a salary only for whoever replaces Gertmenian, and there will be no "Matrix Capital" arrangement where a company owned by the Guild president can bill for outside services. The conflicts of interest under that arrangement, Broad says, "are just incredible."

So was the tale of Gulliver. Jonathan Swift wrote, "A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart." You may recall Gulliver became a hero in Lilliput, and then was accused of treason. The book has come to life again.