11/02/2005 12:00AM

Guild panel to meet over management

Email

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The senate of the Jockeys' Guild has called a special meeting for Nov. 15 to consider replacing its chief executive, L. Wayne Gertmenian, and his management company, Matrix Capital Associates, members of the senate said in a statement Wednesday.

The meeting is being called by 11 of the senate's 27 members, including the guild's vice chairman, John Velazquez. The members said that the guild's bylaws allow nine senators to convene an emergency meeting.

Velazquez was one of several dozen guild members who attended an Oct. 18 congressional hearing in Washington in which Gertmenian and other members of the guild's management were sharply criticized. Gertmenian and Matrix took over management of the guild in the summer of 2001 as the result of a rift among the guild's directors.

"I don't believe Dr. Gertmenian and Matrix have the confidence of the members of the guild, and the leadership of this organization must act decisively to ensure that the guild is run properly," Velazquez said in the statement.

Jockey Robbie Albarado said, "Many riders were looking forward to long-anticipated answers and resolutions. Instead, what we have seen and heard has caused a total loss of faith and trust in our current leadership, and we feel a change is imperative to ensuring progress of the guild and its members."

The jockeys who signed the statement are Albarado, Gary Boulanger, David Flores, Mark Guidry, Jeff Johnston, Michael Luzzi, Richard Migliore, Larry Reynolds, Alex Solis, Velazquez, and Jose Velez.

Jockey Jon Court, a guild member who is supporting the effort to call the meeting, said Wednesday that the Nov. 15 meeting will likely be a conference call. He said that the senators who called for the meeting were seeking legal counsel on how to conduct votes and what number of votes would be required to approve any action.

"We have some questions about that, so I can't really comment definitively," Court said.

Barry Broad, a lawyer and lobbyist who resigned as a guild attorney after the congressional hearings, said Wednesday he was assisting the 11 senate members who had called the meeting.

The guild's chairman, David Shepherd, who has supported Gertmenian, said that he had received the statement but would not comment on whether he supported Gertmenian.

"There's a lot of accusations and a lot of stories coming from a lot of different directions," Shepherd said Wednesday. "I want to do my due diligence and find out the facts."

Gertmenian and the guild's chief operating officer, Albert Fiss, did not return phone calls on Wednesday.

Gertmenian is paid $165,000 annually by the guild, and his consulting company receives $335,000 a year. Last December, the guild's board of directors voted to approve his management contract until 2010.

Last week, the guild's nine-member board of directors - a body that is separate from the senate - held a conference call in which the members agreed to conduct an internal investigation of Gertmenian and Matrix. Also on that conference call, several members of the board said that Velazquez called for Gertmenian to be fired, but the proposal was not supported by seven of the nine members.

The statement Wednesday from the 11 senators said that they are seeking to replace the entire board.

A number of jockeys began criticizing the guild last year after Gary Birzer, a 29-year-old rider, was paralyzed from the middle of the back down in an accident at Mountaineer Race Track in July. Afterward, many guild members complained that they were not notified that the guild had decided not to renew a catastrophic-injury policy covering riders for up to $1 million in medical bills.

Since then, questions have been raised about Gertmenian's qualifications, his management style, and the fee that is paid to Matrix. Gertmenian is Matrix's sole owner, and the guild is the company's only client.