04/17/2002 12:00AM

Washington panel ousts member

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AUBURN, Wash. - The Washington Horse Racing Commission dismissed executive secretary Bruce Batson here on Wednesday, just two days before the 2002 Emerald Downs meeting was scheduled to open.

The decision came by a 4-1 margin in a public vote, which Batson had requested. Pat LePley, the commission chairman, and commissioners Hartly Kruger, Judi Rolands, and Jim Hovis voted to dismiss Batson, while commissioner Barbara Shinpoch dissented. The commission majority gave no specific reasons for its action.

It was not the first time the commission had attempted to oust Batson. According to Batson, he was fired in a private meeting in January 2001, but he threatened to contest the legality of that action, and the commission relented and later maintained that it had never formally dismissed him.

At that time, Batson was embroiled in a dispute over granting civil service status to stewards, which he opposed. This opposition put him at odds with the stewards and some commissioners.