Lawmaker wants Fair Meadows closure probed
BY KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
11/20/12 at 7:44 AM
State Rep. Don Armes asked Gov. Mary Fallin and Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Monday to investigate the proceedings surrounding the closing of Fair Meadows racetrack.
"This is about greed and the willful and blatant disregard of the rule of law and should not be allowed to stand," Armes, R-Faxon, said in a news release.
The fair board voted unanimously - and without comment - earlier this month to end live racing at the horse track as part of a lucrative naming rights agreement with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
The agreement not only ends live racing at Fair Meadows but takes away millions of dollars in purse money that had been used to supplement purses at racetracks across the state.
The fair board - formally known as the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority - includes the three Tulsa County commissioners and two appointees.
County Commissioner and fair board Chairman Fred Perry said Monday evening that he didn't receive the news release until after 7 p.m. and wasn't prepared to comment.
The county commissioners have said previously that they didn't know that the decision to end live racing at Fair Meadows would take purse money from other Oklahoma racetracks.
Without a license to hold live races, Fair Meadows will not receive the $2 million a year it was getting as part of a 2005 agreement with the Creek, Osage and Cherokee tribes. The funds were paid in lieu of installing gaming machines at the racetrack.
The same agreement obligated the tribes to pay into a fund that went to Oklahoma's thoroughbred and quarter horse associations to supplement purses statewide.
That part of the agreement is also nullified as part of Expo Square's agreement with the Creek Nation.
The purse fund averaged $6.8 million a year between 2007 and 2011.
In his news release, Armes states that media reports have revealed that fair board and Expo Square officials "routinely used a secretive and deceitful process to shield their true agenda, thus hiding the devastating economic consequences of their actions from the public until it was too late."
Armes said he wants the Attorney General's Office to determine whether any laws were broken as well as the legal implications of what he describes as the "extra-constitutional action by the fair board."
Armes is also asking Fallin to direct the Department of Commerce to recommend quickly how the Legislature can reverse or limit the economic consequences of the fair board's action.
Horsemen around the state say they were never consulted before the fair board made its decision and that the loss of the purse money will devastate an already struggling industry.
Tino Rieger, executive director of the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission, said previously that the commission was never notified of the deal.
The state Legislature's official website lists Armes' profession as auctioneer, broadcaster, farmer and rancher. Faxon is in Comanche County.
Contacted late Monday, Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said the governor would comment on the issue later.
Pruitt's office did not respond to a call from the Tulsa World seeking comment.
Original Print Headline: Racetrack investigation sought
Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313
Rep. Don Armes: "This is about greed," the Faxon Republican says.