12/17/2005 1:00AM

ITHA challenges group's election


A group critical of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association met Saturday at Hawthorne Race Course to name replacements for the sitting ITHA president and board, but the current ITHA administration denounced the action as illegal in a lawsuit filed Friday in Cook County circuit court.

The splinter group - which drew between 50 and 75 members to the Saturday meeting - contends that ITHA president Joe Kasperski along with the ITHA board improperly altered election procedures for the organization. The board unanimously voted early this year to change the election cycle from two to three years, pushing back an election originally scheduled for this year until 2006. The ITHA leadership said the change was made as a cost-cutting measure at the recommendation of an independent auditor. The splinter group says ITHA bylaws require that any changes to existing bylaws be ratified by the organization's general membership, not merely approved by the board.

The ITHA lawsuit named James Carfagno, Anthony Granitz, Janice Ely, Sigurd Haaland, and Mary Zimmerman as defendants. Carfagno once served as ITHA executive director; Ely and Granitz are former board members. A release from the ITHA said the lawsuit "was filed to declare that the purported election of certain members was of no effect."

The Saturday election failed to conform to ITHA bylaws, which require a nominating process and the inclusion of the general membership. The splinter group named trainer Christine Janks president, and included owners Frank Calabrese and Greg Symaski, and trainers Ron Goodridge, James McCoy, and Roger Salvino on its board.

Carfagno said the group's intention was not to form a competing organization to the ITHA. He said the group was "trying to work within the bylaws of the ITHA," but would not rule out legal action against the current leadership.