01/05/2006 1:00AM

Kentucky puts vet on leave


An assistant veterinarian for the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority has been placed on paid leave after state regulatory officials discovered that she had been indicted six months ago on charges of prescription fraud.

The assistant, Camme Mills, was suspended on Dec. 29 after officials at the state's Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, which oversees the authority, learned that day that she had been indicted on June 5 in Jefferson County on 15 felony charges of obtaining methamphetamines, according to Mark York, a spokesman for the cabinet. Mills, who has pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to go on trial on Jan. 18.

The suspension was first reported in the Thursday edition of the Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal. The newspaper quoted Mills's lawyer, Murray Turner, as saying that Mills had acquired the drugs for use on barrel horses that she trained.

Mills was first hired on a temporary basis by the authority on April 30. She was hired on a full-time basis on Aug. 15, York said.

York said that he could not discuss what procedures the authority uses to check the backgrounds of employees. He also said that the state's Office of Inspector General has begun an internal investigation into the matter.

Jim Gallagher, the executive director of the racing authority, referred questions to York.

Mills's suspension followed by one week the dismissal of the authority's chief veterinarian, Dr. Gary Wilson, who had been openly critical of the authority's funding for the veterinary staff. Wilson was hired in the middle of July after the previous chief veterinarian, Dr. Mitzi Fisher, resigned after 21 years in her position.

York said that the upheavals in the veterinary ranks has not had an impact on the ability of the authority's three remaining staff veterinarians to do their jobs, which includes collecting post-race samples for drug tests and examining horses at the post for racing fitness.

"We're not shorthanded given the current racing calendar," York said.