The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (MTHA) will hold its next meeting in the first week of October, and the meeting will be in executive session, several sources have said.
That meeting figures to be a lively one. Agenda items will likely include an update and possible action on negotiations with the tracks over future racing dates, stabling, and other issues; and discussion of a proposal from the jockeys to increase losing mount fees (paid to horses finishing fourth or worse) from $40 to $100.
And then there are those pesky, as yet unresolved governance and personnel issues that have dogged the organization since February. (If you need a refresher on developments to date, you can read up here, here, here, and here.) In brief, a proposal to change the bylaws and allow members, rather than directors, to elect the president and vice president led to a special meeting of the members, which voted for the change. That led to the board’s invalidating the result of the vote, which spurred weeks of contentious meetings, ultimately leading to a global compromise on several issues. That compromise, reached in late May, was in significant part repudiated by the board at its very next meeting, in July.
Several personnel changes were among the elements of the compromise not repudiated by the board. Those include the retirement of executive secretary Wayne Wright and the resignation from his role as president of Richard Hoffberger; Hoffberger intends to remain on the board. According to a statement issued by the MTHA, both men, as well as vice president Richard Meyer, intended to step down on September 15; but in the absence of any meetings, that has not occurred.
Meanwhile, without a meeting in more than two months and with no information about these issues flowing from MTHA leadership, the backside rumor mill has been active. For example, multiple sources have suggested that the new MTHA president will be a person not currently on the MTHA board — a prospect, which if true, may rekindle the frustration of many members who just five months ago voted to empower themselves to choose the president.
And then there’s the issue of that special meeting, whose work the board invalidated back in May. According to Article XIII, Section 1 of the organization’s bylaws, “the Board of Directors shall not alter or repeal… any Bylaws made by the Members.” The board’s invalidation of the actions of the special meeting — on the grounds that ineligible members may have participated — means that the board, in effect, decided that no proper special meeting had ever taken place. That suggests that the request for a special meeting — which the board is obligated to grant — remains pending.
What next? Each time the board seems to step away from the brink, it takes a step back towards it. Now — with purses up, a long-term deal with the tracks in the works, and a nerve-wracking special legislative session in the rearview mirror — would be a good time for the MTHA’s board to resolve the issues that have roiled the organization, treat its members with the respect they deserve, and position itself to help Maryland racing prosper in the years to come.