Updated on 04/27/2016 10:23AM

Speckert to resign as general counsel of Kentucky Horse Racing Commission


Susan Speckert, the general counsel for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, will leave the agency in late May for another job, the latest in a string of departures at the commission since the election of Gov. Matt Bevin last November.

Speckert, who had served in her position since 2010, was announced on Tuesday as the new executive director of the Fayette Alliance, a Lexington-based land-advocacy group that calls for “sustainable growth” in Fayette County. Speckert has agreed to stay on at the commission until after the commission’s next scheduled meeting May 17, according to executive director Marc Guilfoil.

“I hate to lose Susan, I really do,” said Guilfoil. “She’s one of the good ones.”

Speckert said Wednesday it was a difficult decision to leave the agency because of her “deep personal commitment” to the racing industry. Speckert’s husband, Chris, is a former Thoroughbred trainer, and the couple moved to Lexington in 2005 to be closer to the center of the U.S. racing industry.

“This was in no way an easy decision,” Speckert, who is a regular rider, said. “But I am also deeply committed to the Fayette Alliance and its goals.” 

The KHRC has lost a number of board members and employees since the election of Bevin, a Republican with tea party ties. Bevin replaced a two-term Democrat in former Gov. Steve Beshear, and it is common in Kentucky for governors to make wholesale changes at state agencies based on the political affiliations and leanings of employees.

Just after Bevin won the gubernatorial vote, the KHRC’s longtime chairman, Robert Beck, resigned. In January, John Ward, the commission’s executive director, also resigned, citing information from the Bevin administration that he was going to be replaced. Several weeks ago, the KHRC announced that it had hired Steve May as the commission’s supervisor of parimutuel wagering, replacing employee Greg Lamb.

In addition, Katherine Paisley, the assistant general counsel at the commission, reporting to Speckert, recently resigned “to pursue other interests,” Guilfoil said.

Speckert was legal counsel to the commission during a time when the commission overhauled its medication rules parallel to a national movement to crack down on the use of drugs in the industry, and she also spearheaded several high-profile adjudications against trainers and veterinarians accused by the commission of racing violations.

Speckert also oversaw the effort to devise regulations paving the way for the installation of “historical horse racing” devices at Kentucky racetracks. The gambling devices closely resemble slot machines, which are illegal under Kentucky law.