Three members of the California Horse Racing Board were in conflict of interest when they voted against a request by harness interests for additional racing rights at Los Alamitos Race Course, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.
In ruling on a suit against the racing board, Judge Allen Fields said that CHRB chairman Leslie Liscom, Ray Seeley and Rosemary Ferraro should have disqualified themselves from voting because of connections with Hollywood Park, which owns Los Alamitos.
Liscom works for and has a small interest in an insurance brokerage that does about $1-million of business with Hollywood Park. For several years, Seeley has been allowed to park his motor home track property without paying rent. Ferraro accepted in excess of $250 in meals and drinks from Hollywood Park during a 12-month period, a violation of state regulations.
The seven-member racing board had designated a 17-week harness season at Los Alamitos, but harness officials wanted to extend the season by five weeks. Their request was denied, which prompted the suit against the CHRB.
The racing board will have to reconsider the application for an extended harness season, which was scheduled to end March 25. Tuesday’s decision leaves Los Alamitos’ quarter horse season, which was to begin next week, in limbo.
“This is a major victory for the harness industry in California,” said Ron Zumbrun, a spokesman for harness interests. “This shows that the racing board must start following the statutes and not let itself be subjected to manipulation.”
Liscom declined to comment. Bob Forgnone, Hollywood Park’s attorney, was unavailable for comment.
Lance Olson, a CHRB attorney, said: “They (harness officials) lost, not us, because they wanted the judge to give them the extra weeks and he didn’t do that.”