04/29/2002 12:00AM

HBPA puts Maline on leave


Marty Maline has been placed on "administrative leave with pay" as the executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association pending the results of a conflict-of-interest investigation, an attorney for the group said on Monday.

The attorney, Joe Cohen, said that Maline was placed on leave effective last Friday by the association president, the vet Alex Harthill. Cohen said that Harthill was concerned about an investigation launched by the national HBPA into a company started by former Kentucky and national HBPA president Rick Hiles. Maline was an officer of the company, Cohen said.

Don Keehner, who described himself as a longtime horse owner and part-time employee of the Kentucky group, has been appointed acting executive director.

A Kentucky trainer said Harthill had fired Maline, but Harthill denied that Monday and referred further questions to Cohen.

Cohen said the Kentucky HBPA has initiated its own investigation into the company, Century Consultants, whose only client was Choctaw Racing Services, a tribal-owned Oklahoma company. Choctaw also did business with the national HBPA.

"It is a separate, external investigation, and when it is finished, Mr. Maline will have a change of status," Cohen said. He would not name the investigators, but said they were "unaffiliated with any of the folks involved."

Two weeks ago, the Kentucky HBPA's general counsel, Don Sturgill, also an officer with Century, resigned. Sturgill said the resignation was unrelated to the investigation but was due instead to work responsibilities at his Lexington law firm.

Hiles has disputed that Century's dealings with Choctaw Racing Services presented a conflict of interest, and he said bylaws governing conflicts of interest were waived by the national HBPA board when Century was created.