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Racing Board Officials Deny Conflict of Interest

Times Staff Writer

The chairman and another member of the California Horse Racing Board say that they are not in conflict of interest in situations involving race tracks that they govern.

A harness group has contended that Leslie Liscom, who was recently named chairman of the seven-member board, and Ray Seeley, a former chairman and current board member, should not be making decisions regarding Hollywood Park because of outside considerations.

Liscom has an ownership interest in an insurance brokerage that does business with Hollywood Park, and Seeley frequently parks his motor home on property adjacent to Los Alamitos Race Course, which is owned by Hollywood Park.

The charge against Liscom was brought by a harness group that is suing the racing board in a dispute over the number of racing dates at Los Alamitos. The board has approved 17 weeks of racing for this year, and the harness horsemen are asking for 22 weeks.

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Liscom says that in the opinion of a California deputy attorney general, he is not in conflict of interest. Lance Olson, an attorney representing the racing board in the harness lawsuit, also says there are no grounds for conflict of interest.

Liscom said that after he joined the racing board in 1984, he joined Frank B. Hall & Co., a brokerage firm that already was handling insurance coverage for Hollywood Park. According to Liscom, during his stay with Hall, the firm lost the Hollywood Park business to another firm, which was identified by Hollywood Park attorney Bob Forgnone as Emmett Chandler Co.

Liscom said that he moved to Oland International, another insurance broker, in October, 1986.

“It was the same situation as Frank B. Hall,” Liscom said. “Oland had obtained the Hollywood Park coverage without my knowledge, before I got there, and I had nothing to do with them getting the business. I’m a salaried employee there and have only a tiny ownership interest in the company.”

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Liscom said that Talmadge Jones, a California deputy attorney general, wrote him a letter while he was at Frank B. Hall, saying there was no conflict of interest.

But Mike Franchetti, a San Francisco attorney representing the harness horsemen, said: “Let’s cut through all the baloney. If Liscom made a board decision against Hollywood Park, wouldn’t it figure that Hollywood Park would move its insurance someplace else?

“Liscom has a disincentive to vote against Hollywood Park on anything. He’s an executive vice president at Oland, and we’re not talking about a small amount of money.”

Franchetti said the premiums on the insurance amount to more than $1 million a year.

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“That may be true,” Forgnone said. “But Oland is only the broker, and the money they get is something like $100,000 a year.

“Les Liscom is the epitome of a guy who wants to do the right thing, and they’re trying to make him out as a sleazebag. Legally, he doesn’t have to disqualify himself in votes pertaining to Hollywood Park.”

Forgnone said that the Hollywood Park insurance moved from the Chandler brokerage to Oland because Mike Poland left Chandler to form Oland.

Seeley confirmed that he has parked a motor home on a Hollywood Park-owned golf course next to the Los Alamitos track since 1982, when he joined the board. He said that Millie Vessels, who owned Los Alamitos in 1982, let him park there without paying rent, and the arrangement continued after the sale of the track and golf course to Hollywood Park.

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Seeley lives in Blythe, which is about 225 miles from Los Alamitos.

“I’ve used the motor home to conduct board business at Los Alamitos,” Seeley said. “I’ve even talked to harness horsemen there. If this is a conflict of interest, then it’s a conflict, but there’s no monetary value to what I’m doing. The ground I’m using is deserted.”

A hearing on the harness group’s suit, which was scheduled for Sacramento Superior Court next Friday, has been postponed until Feb. 17.


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