02/08/2006 12:00AM

ITHA plans investigation

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The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association has formed a special committee to investigate charges of wrongdoing leveled against the organization's leadership, but the association's president, Joe Kasperski, continues to insist that the accusations are baseless.

The committee, formed at a board meeting Monday, will be headed by Steve Holland, a prominent local owner, and will meet with a dissident faction of the horsemen's group to sort through the charges.

A group of association members, whose spokeswoman is trainer Janice Ely, a former board member, has been targeting Kasperski since a change was made to the association's election policy last year. The board, at the urging of an auditor who said the measure would save money, voted to extend Kasperski's term from two to three years. But now the group spearheaded by Ely, former association executive director Jim Carfagno, and others, has alleged financial impropriety after gaining access to records of expenses incurred by Kasperski and other association leaders.

Kasperski said Tuesday that an independent corporate auditor said she had "found no evidence of mismanagement or misappropriation of funds."

Kasperski also said that after receiving input from the general membership of the horsemen's association, the group would adhere to the election schedule put forth when terms were extended last year. There will be a nominating meeting in late summer, with elections in the fall.

The dissident group held an informal election in December at the Hawthorne track kitchen, naming Christine Janks as interim president. Current leadership insists that that election, which did not include most members of the organization, has no validity.