11/17/2005 12:00AM

Guild reports a new problem

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WASHINGTON - L. Wayne Gertmenian, the former chief executive of the Jockeys' Guild, wrote checks totaling $217,000 to himself and to other employees of his consulting company on Tuesday, the day Gertmenian was fired, the new head of the guild said on Thursday.

The checks were written despite a hold placed on the guild's accounts for any check over $200, according to Darrell Haire, the interim head of the guild. Haire said that he did not know the amounts of the individual checks but that checks were cashed by Gertmenian; Albert Fiss, the guild's former chief operating officer, who was also fired on Tuesday; and several other employees of Matrix Capital Associates, Gertmenian's consulting company.

"We don't know how it happened," Haire said. "We're talking to the banks to figure it all out."

A phone call placed to Gertmenian's house in California on Thursday was not answered.

Barry Broad, the counsel to the guild, said that information about the checks had been turned over to law enforcement officials.

The cashed checks were referenced by several members of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations during a hearing on Thursday afternoon in Washington. The hearing was the second held by the committee, which is investigating the guild and riders' accident insurance. The committee is chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky.

In opening remarks, several members of the committee applauded the guild for removing Gertmenian. Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas who had urged guild members to fire Gertmenian, said: "If there are any guild members here today, I want to say to you, I'm proud of you for doing the right thing, and we will continue to back you."

In the first hearing last month, the committee focused on the guild's management under Gertmenian, principally a decision in 2002 to allow a catastrophic-injury policy that covered jockeys for up to $1 million to lapse. The hearing Thursday focused on the responsibilities of racetracks and industry groups to provide insurance and safe working conditions for jockeys. Seventeen witnesses, including representatives from Churchill Downs, Magna Entertainment Corp., Moutaineer Park, and Charles Town Races, testified.

Most racing representatives testified that the industry had provided adequate insurance coverage to jockeys until the guild allowed the policy to lapse.

The explanations did not appear to fully satisfy Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat from Michigan, who said that congressmen were "looking for a revenue source because we have to take care of these people."