07/02/2002 11:00PM

HBPA conflict investigation done

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An attorney hired by the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has completed his investigation into possible conflicts of interest involving several of the association's former officers, National HBPA officials said Tuesday.

The attorney, Peter Ecabert, is expected to submit a report about the investigation to a special task force of the HBPA by this weekend, according to Remi Bellocq, the association's executive director.

The five-member task force will review the report over the next two weeks and then forward recommendations to the full board on July 21 at the association's convention in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Ecabert was hired in mid-April to investigate possible conflicts of interest involving Rick Hiles, the former president of the association, and Don Sturgill, the group's former general counsel. Sturgill and Hiles were both officers of a company, Century Consultants, that received consulting fees from an Oklahoma Native American tribe that was also paying the National HBPA.

Bellocq said that Ecabert has "interviewed or tried to interview" all the officers of Century and officers of the National HBPA at the time the payments were being made, from 1999 to 2001. Hiles and Sturgill have both said they had received waivers from the National HBPA of any conflicts of interest related to Century before they formed the company.

Depending on Ecabert's report, the five-member task force could issue an array of possible recommendations, including pursuing criminal charges, issuing a reprimand, or doing nothing at all, Bellocq said.