07/16/2012 4:05PM

New NYRA board timetable uncertain


Nearly eight weeks after the New York Racing Association and Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached an agreement to dissolve the association’s current board of directors in favor of a board controlled by state politicians, it remains unclear when state officials will seek to replace the current NYRA board.

Officials in the Cuomo administration did not respond on Monday to requests for comment on when Cuomo would make his appointments to the board, the same day that a columnist for the New York Post, citing a “source with direct knowledge of the planned action,” said that Cuomo would pick his eight directors immediately after the close of the Saratoga meet on Sept. 3. The meet opens on Friday.

Given the high profile of the Saratoga meet, it would be logical to assume that Cuomo will wait until the end of the stand to make his picks, in the interests of allowing the meet to proceed without purposeful disruption. Under legislation passed last month, the new board will “become effective” when seven of the 12 state appointments to the board are announced. Cuomo has the power to appoint eight board members, while the leaderships of the state Assembly and Senate each will have the power to appoint two board members.

NYRA’s current board has 25 members, 14 of whom are appointed by NYRA. The other 11 appointments are controlled by the state.

Board members on Monday said that they had not had any communications with Gov. Cuomo’s office about his plans for the board since the agreement was struck to dissolve the current board in late May.

The New York Post column also said that Cuomo planned to fire Ellen McClain, NYRA’s current chief operating officer and the president of the NYRA board. The column, however, called McClain NYRA’s “chief executive officer,” a position at NYRA that remains unfilled since NYRA’s former chief executive, Charles Hayward, was fired in connection with a state report suggesting that Hayward and other NYRA officials were aware that NYRA had applied the wrong takeout rates to many superexotic wagers over a 15-month period in 2010 and 2011.

Board members said they had no knowledge of any plan to fire McClain, who was elevated to president of the board after Hayward’s departure left the position vacant.

Earlier this year, Cuomo said that the new NYRA board would conduct a “nationwide search” to fill the chief executive position.

NYRA chairman Stephen Duncker would not comment on the report, but he released a statement specifically noting that McClain was the association’s “chief operating officer,” not its chief executive.

“[McClain] is an extremely talented executive and the NYRA board of directors is very happy with the job that she has done running the company,” the statement read. “We are immediately focused on maintaining the terrific success that we have had at Saratoga Race Course.”