07/22/2002 12:00AM

Horsemen continue inquiry into two former officers

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NEW YORK - The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association will continue to pursue civil liability charges against two of its former officers, association officials said Monday after reviewing an investigation of possible conflicts of interest at the organization.

The two officers, former president Rick Hiles and former general counsel Don Sturgill, will not face any criminal complaints in the investigation, according to John Roark, the current president of the association. But Roark said the board still has questions for Hiles and Sturgill before they will determine whether to drop the investigation.

"It will depend on what their responses are," Roark said on Monday.

Another officer implicated in the investigation, current Kentucky HBPA president Marty Maline, has been cleared of all liability, both civil and criminal, the national association said.

The internal investigation was launched in April after association members complained that the three officials formed a company, Century Consultants, that received payments from the Choctaw tribe in Oklahoma at the same time that the HBPA was also receiving fees from the Choctaws.

An HBPA statement said that collecting the fees constituted a conflict of evidence and that Hiles and Sturgill "did not act in the best interests of the NHBPA, its board of directors and membership."

Roark said that Hiles and Sturgill will be asked to provide an accounting of the expenses they incurred related to Century while officers at the HBPA.

Hiles, reached on Monday, said officials had yet to contact him regarding the investigation. Hiles has said that the board waived regulations over conflicts of interest when Century was set up.

"I've been saying since the beginning I didn't do anything wrong," Hiles said.