12/20/2007 1:00AM

Spitzer replaces Stone on oversight board

EmailCarole Stone, the chairwoman of the New York Non-Profit Racing Association Oversight Board, resigned Wednesday at the request of Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who cited the board's potential role in negotiating a temporary extension of the franchise held by the New York Racing Association.

In her place, Spitzer appointed Steven Newman, the former first deputy comptroller of the city of New York. Stone, an appointee of former Gov. George Pataki, will remain on the five-member board, and Madelyn Wils will step down.

The move by Spitzer came two days after the oversight board passed a resolution authorizing the chairwoman to negotiate with NYRA on a temporary extension to its franchise, which expires at the end of this year. In a statement, Spitzer's office said the governor "believed it would be best for his appointee to have that responsibility, so he would be accountable for any determination that is made in this regard."

Representatives for the governor have been discussing a long-term extension of the franchise with NYRA officials and legislative leaders. A long-term franchise extension for NYRA would have to be approved by the governor, the assembly, and the senate. Negotiations have been taking place for three months and have picked up pace over the last two weeks, but officials involved in the talks have said that little progress has been made over the past two days.

Spitzer, NYRA, and the Democrat-controlled assembly support a 30-year extension to the franchise in exchange for the state's taking uncontested title to Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. NYRA officials contend that NYRA is the rightful owner of the three tracks and have taken up the issue in bankruptcy court while submitting a financial reorganization plan. Opposition to the 30-year extension has been led by senate majority leader Joseph Bruno, a Republican.

The oversight board was created by Pataki at the request of senate Republicans in 2005 as a way to monitor NYRA's finances and operations after the association emerged from the supervision of an independent monitoring firm as part of a deferred-prosecution agreement related to tax-fraud convictions by more than a dozen NYRA mutuel tellers. The Republicans had four appointees - three by Pataki and one by Bruno. Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the assembly and a Democrat, had the other.

NYRA officials have been reluctant to accept a temporary extension and have said they would risk shutting down racing as of Jan. 1 if the framework for a long-term deal was not in place.