12/10/2004 12:00AM

Gertmenian defends resume

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TUCSON, Ariz. - L. Wayne Gertmenian, the president of the Jockeys' Guild, said Thursday that the qualifications listed in his resume are "all valid" but declined further explanation.

Gertmenian was approached at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, site of the Symposium on Racing, the annual gathering of industry leaders.

In a brief interview, he responded publicly for the first time to questions about his resume that is posted on the website of the University of Pepperdine, where he is a tenured professor in the school of business.

Gertmenian, who has been pressing racetracks to pay for better accident insurance coverage for jockeys, has become an increasingly polarizing figure in the industry. The Jockeys' Guild, which reports that it has 1,259 members, gave him a resounding vote of confidence at its annual meeting earlier this week in Irving, Texas, by extending his employment contract five years, through 2009. At the same time, racetrack operators increasingly view him with suspicion, questioning his background, the Guild's intentions, and the role the Guild might have played in two jockey walkouts in November. The Guild is not a labor union because jockeys are considered independent contractors.

Some racetrack operators have privately said they believe that Gertmenian is using the Guild's call for increased insurance coverage as part of a larger strategy that will lead to lawsuits claiming the jockeys have broadcast rights for the purposes of simulcasting that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Gertmenian's resume says that he was chief detente negotiator in Moscow and an emissary to Tehran during the Nixon and Ford administrations. It also says that Gertmenian was a board member of the Far East Foundation and West Coast Bancorp. None of those claims could be substantiated by official archivists at the Nixon and Ford libraries or by the Far East Foundation and West Coast Bancorp.

When asked on Thursday to explain the discrepancies, Gertmenian said, "It's all valid." When asked why the records did not indicate that the positions in the Nixon and Ford administration even existed, he repeated, "It's all valid," and added, "Leave it at that."

Questions have also been raised about the status of approximately $2.2 million that is given to the Guild each year by racetracks, a payment that is not tied to any specific program. The Guild had previously used the payments in part to purchase an accident insurance policy that covered jockeys for up to $1 million. The policy, which cost $450,000 in 2001, was allowed to lapse in 2002, even though financial filings show that the Guild's cash reserves increased from $2.1 million to $4.2 million during the same year.

Gertmenian said that the old accident policy was "useless" and that it covered only 450 jockeys. He said the Guild "didn't have anywhere near the money" for the insurance policy.

Chris Scherf, the executive vice president of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, a racetrack trade group that arranges the annual payments to the Guild, disputed Gertmenian's contention that the policy covered only 450 jockeys. Scherf said the policy covered anyone who was a Guild member - which would have applied to any jockey who had 100 mounts in the previous year, five mounts in the previous month, or one mount in the previous week, Scherf said. He said the policy would have covered about 700 jockeys who account for the overwhelming majority of rides in the United States.

Gertmenian said the Guild's cash reserves increased because of savings that the Guild was managing for jockeys. When asked why the savings were being kept in the organization's cash account, Gertmenian said, "I'm not a chief financial officer. You'd have to ask someone who knows. That's not an area I pay attention to."

Questions about the Guild's finances stem from the organization's 2002 filings with the Department of Labor. The Guild has not filed statements for 2003 even though the reports are due by March 30 each year. Gertmenian said that "it's pretty normal" to delay filing the forms. Guild officials have told investigators from the Department of Labor that they would file by the end of the year.

At one point, Gertmenian stated that he and his wife, Cynthia, "are passionate about these jockeys, and that's why we got into this. We got involved out of passion to help, to help these people in wheelchairs."

When asked why jockeys who had been critical of the Guild had been expelled from the organization, Gertmenian gently grabbed the questioner's arm and said, "You're going to have to let this go," before ending the interview.