10/25/2005 11:00PM

Guild opens probe of CEO


The Jockeys' Guild has begun an internal investigation into the credentials of its chief executive officer, L. Wayne Gertmenian, and payments made to his consulting company, Matrix Capital Associates, several members of the guild's executive committee said on Wednesday morning.

The guild's nine-member executive committee approved the investigation on Tuesday night during a telephone conference call, according to the members. During the call, the guild's co-vice chairman, the New York rider John Velazquez, urged the committee to fire Gertmenian, several members said, but his suggestion did not receive support from at least seven members.

Jeff Johnston, the guild's treasurer and a rider based in the Midwest, said that the investigation "would address all the issues of our membership" surrounding Gertmenian, who took over management of the guild in 2001 as the result of a rift among the guild's board members. Some of the board members who initially supported Gertmenian have since resigned and distanced themselves from the guild.

"We want to make sure we can answer all the questions that our members have," Johnston said.

Guild officials did not return phone calls.

Velazquez declined to comment on whether he had asked for Gertmenian to be fired.

"I can't talk about that right now," Velazquez said. "We are having meetings, and we want an investigation. We want some questions answered."

Johnston said that Maryland riders had sent a petition calling for Gertmenian's removal. He called any effort to remove Gertmenian premature.

The board's conference call took place a week after the guild's management appeared in Washington before the U.S. Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which is looking into insurance and welfare issues for jockeys and exercise riders. During the hearing, subcommittee members were highly critical of Gertmenian, his compensation package at the guild, and the guild's decision to allow an insurance policy covering jockeys for up to $1 million in medical bills to lapse in 2002. The guild, which claims 1,200 members, is the only major group that represents jockeys on insurance and welfare issues.

Since the hearing, according to several guild members, Gertmenian has sent out e-mails to members giving details about positions he says he held in the federal government in the 1970's. Gertmenian's resume came under fire from the subcommittee last week as being inaccurate or embellished.

On a resume posted on the Pepperdine University website, where he is a tenured professor, Gertmenian claimed to be the "chief detente negotiator" in Moscow for the National Security Council during the Nixon and Ford administrations from 1974 to 1976, as well as an "emissary to Teheran [sic] for the Secretary of Commerce." Archivists at both the Nixon and Ford libraries have said that those positions did not exist and that Gertmenian's name did not appear in any National Security Council documents from that time period.

Gertmenian's consulting company, Matrix Capital Associates, is paid approximately $335,000 a year by the guild. Gertmenian is Matrix's sole owner. In addition, Gertmenian earns a $165,000 annual salary at the guild, in an employment agreement that was extended at the end of last year until 2009.

Larry Reynolds, a West Virginia-based rider who is a member of the executive committee, said that he had voiced some support for Velazquez's call to fire Gertmenian but did not press the issue, preferring instead to let the investigation run its course.

"We have some paperwork on his background, and we want to review that, and we want to check all the paperwork at the office," Reynolds said. "We want to know about Matrix's expenses, Dr. G.'s pay, things like that."

The investigation will be the second begun internally by the guild in a year. In late 2004, guild board member Kent Desormeaux, the California-based jockey, started his own probe into the guild's finances. Desormeaux was removed from the guild's board shortly after beginning the investigation, which was never completed.