11/19/2004 12:00AM

More questions for the Guild

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - When L. Wayne Gertmenian was installed as president of the Jockeys' Guild in June 2001, his supporters said that his unfamiliarity with the racing world was outweighed by an impressive resume that included important positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations.

Now, more than three years later, when the Guild is depending on sound leadership to press for better accident coverage for its 1,250 members, Gertmenian's resume is raising serious questions about his qualifications.

A background check by Daily Racing Form suggests there is little or no evidence that Gertmenian served in the important government posts he described. Claims of being a radio talk show host and author appear to be supported only by self-published work and purchased broadcast time. Descriptions of positions on some company boards in the resume appear to be inaccurate, according to company filings or representatives of the businesses themselves.

Gertmenian has been largely inaccessible since taking over the Guild, and he remains so. He did not return phone calls on Friday seeking comment about his resume, and he did not return calls earlier in the week to respond to questions about the Guild's finances and concerns of some riders who are voicing dissatisfaction with the Guild's strategies for improving their insurance coverage.

The phone listed for Gertmenian at Pepperdine, the university in Los Angeles where he has taught as a professor of economics, was answered by another Pepperdine employee on Friday. In response to a request to speak with Gertmenian, the school's public-relations department gave the phone number for the Guild's office in Monrovia, Calif. Lori Putnam, public relations director at the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine, said Friday that Gertmenian is a tenured professor at the school and that many professors are businessmen who occasionally teach courses at the school.

Gertmenian was brought into the Guild by Chris McCarron, the now-retired Hall of Fame rider who was then on the Guild's executive committee. Described by supporters as a charismatic speaker with a compelling ability to capture the attention of audiences, Gertmenian has a strained relationship with many track operators who have bristled at his personal style and his insistence that racetracks pay more for insurance.

McCarron, who declined to comment for this article, no longer speaks with Gertmenian, according to several people. They said the two had a falling out shortly after Gertmenian became president of the Guild and Matrix Capital Associates, Gertmenian's consulting company, took over management of the Guild.

Scrutiny of the Guild and its leadership has increased after incidents at Churchill Downs and Hoosier Park earlier this month in which 14 jockeys at each track were banned for refusing to ride over insurance and safety concerns. The refusals were intended in part to bring attention to insurance policies purchased by the tracks that limit accident coverage to $100,000. Guild officials have insisted that the racetracks should purchase additional coverage, up to $1 million.

The Guild had purchased a supplemental insurance policy covering jockeys injured at racetracks for up to $1 million but let the policy lapse in 2002. Some jockeys said they did not find out the coverage had lapsed until last July, when Gary Birzer, a rider at Mountaineer in West Virginia, was paralyzed in an accident and unable to pay his medical bills.

Albert Fiss, the Guild's vice president, claimed that the Guild could not afford the policy. However, according to the Guild's annual financial filings with the Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service, the Guild had a $4.2 million balance in its cash account at the end of 2002, up from $2.1 million at the beginning of the year. The supplemental policy cost $450,000 to cover jockeys from April 2001 to April 2002.

The Guild is eight months late in filing its annual report for 2003 to the Department of Labor, according to a spokesperson for the department. The 2002 report was signed by Gertmenian on Feb. 19, 2004, and filed on Feb. 20, 11 months late.

The Guild's chairwoman, Tomey Jean Swan, did not return phone calls Friday.

The questions about Gertmenian's resume came as no surprise to Jerry Bailey, the Hall of Fame jockey who was a member of the Guild's executive committee in 2001 but resigned because of his opposition to Gertmenian. Four other members of the executive committee resigned with Bailey, and the four eventually resigned from the Guild, including Pat Day, who was the Guild's president.

Bailey said on Thursday that he had asked Gertmenian repeatedly for references after the Guild's executive committee ousted the organization's national manager, John Giovannni, in favor of Gertmenian in 2001 but that Gertmenian rejected each request.

"He told me that his references were private," Bailey said. "I asked him again, saying that I was a member of the executive committee, and that it was my duty to check him out. He told me again that it was private and none of my business. I figured I couldn't trust him for anything after that."

On his resume, which is posted on Pepperdine's Internet site, Gertmenian is described as "chief detente negotiator in Moscow" during the Nixon and Ford administrations from 1974 to 1976, as well as an "emissary to Teheran for the Secretary of Commerce." Those claims could not be subtantiated by archivists at the official Nixon and Ford presidential libraries.

"There was no one with those titles," said Donna Lehman, an archivist at the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor Michigan, on Thursday. "He possibly may have had something to do in Moscow and Teheran. I don't really know. But I constantly read all those documents from those departments, and those are not official titles that existed. And I've never, ever seen his name before."

Jennifer Evans, an archivist at the Richard M. Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, Calif., was also unaware of any references to Gertmenian in any position similar to the ones described on the resume. "I actually got curious, because Nixon made a big trip to Moscow in 1972," Evans said. "So I checked the flight manifests just to be sure, but he didn't show up on any of those either."

Both Evans and Lehman said that Gertmenian showed up in only one reference in the archives. He was appointed as a special assistant to the secretary for international liaison in the Department of Housing and Urban Development on April 6, 1974. The two archivists did not know when Gertmenian left the position but said that he was not listed in archives that contained every employee of the executive branch in 1976.

From 1977 to 1981, Gertmenian was the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Ready Pac Inc., in Irwindale, Calif., a packaged produce business, according to his resume. The company was founded by his brother, Dennis Gertmenian, in 1969. Dennis Gertmenian confirmed that his brother had worked in those positions but declined to answer other questions.

"He's a college professor, and he's involved in a lot of other things, but I don't think that's any of your business," Dennis Gertmenian said on Thursday.

Shortly after leaving Ready Pac, Gertmenian incorporated Matrix Capital Associates in Monrovia, Calif., on Aug. 23, 1982, according to California state business records. According to several people who were in the Guild and who requested anonymity, Matrix Capital is being paid approximately $40,000 a month by the Guild.

The Guild's Department of Labor filings for 2002 lists expenses of $408,895 for "additional supporting services" and $434,189 for "regulation and promotion of racing." Those categories of expenses were not listed on the Guild's filings until Gertmenian became president.

From 1988 to 1990, Gertmenian was a radio talk show host on KIEV, according to his resume. KIEV, based in Southern California, sold time to individuals or companies for radio infomercials, according to the company's Internet site. "Showcase your business products, services or seminars with your own talk show program," advertising for the company said. Phone numbers for the radio station are out of service.

The resume said that Gertmenian is the author of the book "Economath Primer" and a "nationally marketed" audiotape series "Everything's Negotiable." Both products appear to have been self-published.

The company that sells "Everything's Negotiable," Verbal Advantage, markets audio cassettes for a range of self-help topics. The product page for "Everything's Negotiable" does not list the author of the six-cassette set, although a picture of the product appears to show Gertmenian as the author. "Economath Primer" was published by Matrix Capital.

The resume lists Gertmenian on the board of the Near East Foundation, a charitable company based in New York that provides assistance to Middle East countries. A spokesperson for the foundation who would not identify herself said on Thursday that Gertmenian was at one time on an "international council" for the foundation that had been disbanded "a long, long time ago" but that Gertmenian was not a board member.

Although the resume lists Gertmenian as a director at West Coast Bancorp., a publicly traded banking company, records filed by the company with the Securities and Exchange Commission do not list Gertmenian as a director in any year from 1997 through 2004.