07/01/2003 11:00PM

Security firm hired by NYRA


NEW YORK - The New York Racing Association has hired a high-profile security consulting firm to address concerns raised in a recent report by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

SafirRosetti, the security company, has been hired "to evaluate, and, if appropriate, to supplement the security operations, cash handling, supervisory training and other procedures," the association announced in a statement late Tuesday. SafirRosetti is headed by former New York City Police and Fire Commissioner Howard Safir.

The announcement followed a meeting between NYRA Chairman Barry Schwartz and Spitzer on Tuesday afternoon.

The meeting came after more than two weeks of sometimes vitriolic exchanges between Spitzer and NYRA officials that projected both sides in a negative light. Following the release of Spitzer's report, NYRA officials accused Spitzer of grandstanding to increase his visibility as he prepares for a run at governor while Spitzer criticized NYRA for distorting the truth and refusing to acknowledge shortcomings in its business practices.

In an interview Wednesday, Spitzer called Tuesday's meeting "cordial and friendly." He said he believed that the public feud between NYRA and his office had run its course.

"I certainly hope so," Spitzer said. "I don't think there's anything gained by public commentary other than how to improve NYRA and make it go forward."

Spitzer's report was highly critical of NYRA management, specifically Terry Meyocks, NYRA's president. The report recommended that Meyocks be removed for failing to adequately address corruption among mutuel tellers at the three racetracks NYRA operates - Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. However, NYRA board members have said that Meyocks will not be removed.

Meyocks did not attend the Tuesday meeting, Spitzer said. He would not comment on whether Meyocks was a topic of discussion.

"I don't want to say we discussed A and B but not C and D," Spitzer said. "We had a very broad-ranging discussion." When asked whether NYRA still needed to remove Meyocks, Spitzer said, "I haven't taken any issue off the table," but he also said that NYRA's willingness to address the security concerns in the report "are certainly positive steps."

Schwartz was not criticized by name in Spitzer's report. In a statement issued after the meeting, Schwartz said that he and Spitzer "share and are dedicated to the same core principle: that NYRA's business practices must at all times possess the highest integrity."

Schwartz had earlier compared Spitzer's report to a "witch hunt" and said that the report contained numerous errors and contradictions. Later, Denis J. McInerney, NYRA's attorney, read a lengthy statement outlining what NYRA said were inaccurate and misleading conclusions in the report.

Spitzer said he and Schwartz had agreed to stay in touch as SafirRosetti conducts its evaluation. "I don't want to use a word like monitoring, because of the connotation that we would be lurking over their shoulders," Spitzer said. "I think the best way to say it is that we will be in communication with Schwartz and the NYRA board as this process goes forward."

NYRA also announced that it had formed a committee to review NYRA's practices to ensure that the concerns in Spitzer's report are addressed. The committee includes five board members: Albert Fried Jr., Stuart S. Janney III, Peter F. Karches, Richard T. Santulli, and Stuart Subotnick.