Before we were interrupted by the holiday weekend, there was the latest news item regarding NYRA, this one involving a dispute with their former integrity counsel Getnick and Getnick. Longtime LATG readers and followers of the NY political scene are surely familiar with these guys; if you enter 'Getnick' in the search box in the upper left hand corner of this blog, you'll get a long list of posts, quite well-written if I do say so myself, going back as far as 2005. I'd forgotten, until this reader mentioned it, about Neil Getnick's peripheral involvement in the Friends of New York/Empire Racing affair - he/she probably saw the same post that I did that came up on top of the search. (Getnick had asserted that Tim Smith basically told him what Friends was up to back in 2004. Ah, those were the days, eh?)
Just about everyone was excoriated over Getnick's $125,000 per month contract as NYRA's integrity counsel. NYRA was criticized for agreeing to pay anyone that much given their financial condition. G&G was criticized for conflict of interest - it was after all their glowing report that allowed NYRA to emerge from a federal prosecution and go on to win the franchise....thus allowing Getnick to get the lucrative gig. And, if you Google 'NYRA Getnick,' it returns, right on top (at least for me, could be different for you depending on what highly personal information of yours Google has), is a post of mine linking to a NY Post column in which Frederik U. Dicker breathlessly tells us how Joe Bruno was investigating Governor Spitzer's ties to the firm. And haven't the lives of those two arch-enemies changed since then! I would think that they could now perhaps find some common ground and share a laugh over a beer reminiscing over old times. (Or....maybe not.)
Also, if we go way back to that abovementioned post from 2005, we see that Neil Getnick said that he was charging NYRA a mere $5 million for its work as the federal monitor during the prosecution.
So, NYRA has been quite the cash cow for Getnick. But now, the two sides are embroiled in a legal fight over NYRA's firing of G&G in March of 2011. The two were squabbling over that $125,000 a month fee that NYRA had stopped paying in full after the arrangement was criticized by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. Matt Hegarty reports in the Form:
In court filings on Thursday, Getnick and Getnick’s legal counsel argued that the requirements of the franchise agreement NYRA had reached with the state prohibited NYRA from making a unilateral decision to fire the company. The company asked the court to reject NYRA’s argument and reiterated that Getnick and Getnick is still owed the money under the five-year agreement. [DRF]The kicker here is a heretofore unreleased Getnick report purporting to contain details of two integrity investigations that were underway when the firm was fired. Now, there is a dispute between the companies - and in newspaper reports I've read - as to when that report was delivered; whether it precipitated the firing or came afterwards. However, Hegarty reports that Getnick's court filings themselves state that it was "delivered to NYRA’s board on June 13, 2011, three months after the firm had been fired."
If that is indeed the case, you have to take the report and whatever it says for what it's worth. I mean, since "corporations are people," in the view of the now official GOP presidential candidate, as well as the conservative majority in the Supreme Court (one of the keys in the Citizens United ruling that rules and roils today's elections....and you really might want to read Jeffrey Toobin's controversial New Yorker article on the subject), then think about how you would react if you were involved in a long, complicated relationship that ended in bitter acrimony with you as the jilted lover. You'd be pretty pissed I imagine, even besides the $5million and $125k per month. Who knows what you'd say and do in reaction. We don't know what's in the report, and may never know if NYRA prevails in its argument that it constitutes attorney-client privilege. So I'm not saying that what's in there isn't true. Just that, again, it has to be taken for what it's worth.
NYRA meanwhile is going on its merry way preparing for the Belmont Stakes which will draw a large crowd that will mostly go home disappointed when I'll Have Another loses. Plenty of promotions and contests, new transportation options, and, in keeping with the theme of the day, announcing a strict security and testing protocols being implemented by the Racing and Wagering Board. The Board can't keep track of the right takeout, but they can sure put the hammer down on all those habitual Belmont Stakes cheaters. A buddy suggested that these measures are aimed at Doug O'Neill; but I say the Board is doing anything and everything it can to distance itself from NYRA and distract everyone from their own incompetence in the takeout snafu.
We won't be able to tell for sure, but I do wonder if the Belmont day attendance will be at all adversely affected by all the negative publicity surrounding NYRA. Not that it should have much to do with it at all. But, I dunno, when an entity is the subject of such a constant barrage of negative news (all portrayed in the worst possible light), and is bashed over and over and over again, by newspapers, regulatory agencies, and politicians at all levels going up to the governor himself, it has to create some kind of a stench. Whether it's smelly enough to keep people (other than Governor Cuomo) away, we probably won't know. But it sure as hell can't help.