Wednesday, March 18, 2009

'Hostile Takeover' of MNR HBPA Alleged


The president and two members of the Mountaineer Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association board of directors have been suspended in what some members are calling a “hostile takeover” of the organization.

Board members held a meeting March 17 and voted to suspend the organization’s president, Jami Poole; second vice president John Baird; and board member Wynn Jolley. The three men claim they were told the meeting was scheduled to discuss the status of executive director Maria Catignani and had no idea what was to come.

In addition, an attorney hired by Poole to handle Mountaineer HBPA legal matters was fired by the board at the St. Patrick's Day meeting.

The Mountaineer HBPA represents owners and trainers at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in West Virginia. Horsemen there race for more than $30 million a year in purses because of revenue from video lottery terminals, and have access to solid pension and health insurance plans.

“I was unaware of what was going to take place,” said Baird, who attended the March 17 meeting. “We held a vote on the lawyer, and I voted not to remove him, but I didn’t know what was coming next. I asked for reasons for the suspensions, and was told we’d get them at our hearing. How can you vote to suspend anyone without giving reasons?”

Hearings for Poole, Baird, and Jolley are scheduled for March 30. First vice president Rembrant Wright is serving as interim president.