12/07/2004 1:00AM

Jockeys' Guild renews Gertmenian until 2009

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The Jockeys' Guild has renewed the employment contract of its president, L. Wayne Gertmenian, until 2009, the vice chairwoman of the Guild, Tomey Jean Swan, said Tuesday after the Guild wrapped up its two-day annual meeting in Dallas.

Swan announced Gertmenian's new contract and listed the Guild's new officers but declined further comment.

The new contract was a vote of confidence for Gertmenian, who has sparred with racetrack operators over the issue of adequate accident insurance for jockeys and whose leadership qualifications have been questioned after a check of his resume. According to a statement by the Guild, 154 of its 1,259 members attended the annual meeting.

Kent Desormeaux, the Hall of Fame rider, was not re-elected as an executive board member, Guild officials said. Desormeaux said two weeks ago that he was going to open an inquiry into Gertmenian's background and the Guild's financial statements.

Gertmenian and his company, Matrix Capital Associates, took over management of the Guild in 2001.

Gertmenian's resume contends that he served in several important positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations, but official archivists at the Nixon and Ford libraries could not substantiate those claims. Several other positions listed on the resume also could not be verified. Gertmenian has not responded to requests for comment on his resume.

According to a statement issued after the meeting by Guild spokesman Eric Banks, there was "a strong show of support from members for the current leadership of the Guild." The statement acknowledged special appreciation for members from Churchill Downs and Hoosier Park "who were expelled from their racetracks after voicing concerns over lack of insurance coverage and absence of safety railing."

"Discussions were held on Monday and Tuesday on a variety of issues," the statement said in part, "including jockeys' insurance, catastrophic accident coverage, and racetrack safety issues."

The Guild, Gertmenian, and Matrix have been embroiled in controversy since two walkouts by jockeys early in November at Churchill Downs and Hoosier Park. Many racing officials believe the Guild has organized the walkouts.

Since then, several former Guild members have criticized the organization, claiming the Guild has mismanaged its finances and refused to allow Guild board members to examine the organization's financial statements. One of those critics, Eddie King, the Guild's former treasurer, was expelled from the Guild on Monday by a unanimous vote of the board.

Guild management has said that catastrophic insurance policies purchased by racetracks should be increased from $100,000 to $1 million in medical coverage. The Guild used to purchase supplemental accident insurance covering jockeys for up to $1 million but let the policy lapse in 2002.

Many racetracks fear that the Guild will organize walkouts to disrupt business. In Tucson, Ariz., Tom Meeker, the chief executive officer of Churchill Downs Inc., said Tuesday at an annual racing and gaming conference that he believes the "jockeys are preparing to go to war." But Meeker said the industry could work out a mutually beneficial solution to the problem of adequate and affordable accident insurance.

"Right now," Meeker said of the jockeys, "it's emotion overriding emotion."

* Swan said the Guild elected the following members as officers of the executive board: David Shepherd, chairman; John Velazquez and herself, vice chairmen; Jeff Johnston, treasurer; and Casey Lambert, secretary.

According to Eric Banks, a spokesman for the Guild, the following members complete the executive board: Abad Cabassa Jr., G.R. Carter, Brian Peck, and Larry Reynolds.

- additional reporting by Mary Rampellini