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November 26, 2014

2 Minnesota Racing Commission officials under investigation

Executive deputy director Mary Manney and chief veterinarian Dr. Lynn Hovda are being investigated by the Minnesota Management and Budget Office, the Star Tribune reports. In addition, panel Executive Director Richard Krueger has announced his retirement, the newspaper reported.

A lawyer for Manney said she was placed on paid leave Sept. 7 but had not been given details of the allegations other than being told she had been insubordinate, the Star Tribune reports.

A lawyer for Hovda said she is the target of a probe involving her handling of a truckload of horses that arrived at the track on a 100-degree day in July. She did nothing wrong and the horses survived, the lawyer says (statement below).

The nine-member Minnesota Racing Commission regulates the state’s two racing tracks, Canterbury Park in Shakopee and Running Aces near Forest Lake.

Krueger told KSTP that people who gamble at Canterbury Park and Running Aces can have confidence in the fairness of the gaming operations. And he said staff can ably handle security, the station reported:

A lawyer for Hovda released this statement:

October 16, 2012
STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF DR. LYNN HOVDA, RPH, DVM, MS, DACVIM MINNESOTA RACING COMMISSION, CHIEF COMMISSOIN VETERINARIAN

The press has recently reported that the Minnesota Racing Commission has disclosed that Chief Commission Veterinarian, Dr. Lynn Hovda, is under investigation. With no attending details, the Commission has left the public and Dr. Hovda’s professional community to wonder what that investigation is for.

Under these circumstances, the Commission’s violation of Dr. Hovda’s privacy and attending damage to her reputation resulting from the disclosure of an investigation with no context or attending details, Dr. Hovda has asked the Commission and the State to remedy the situation. Neither has done so and thus Dr. Hovda feels she has no choice but to comment publicly on the investigation and to put the facts on the public record and in context.

First, the investigation concerns a matter of veterinary judgment (not, as some might have speculated, malfeasance, corruption or financial irregularity), a veterinary judgment rendered in consultation with the Executive Director of the racing Commission, Richard Krueger and the owner of the racetrack, Randy Sampson and subsequently supported by multiple outside veterinary authorities. Second, a question of this sort has always been “investigated” internally, as veterinary decisions routinely are challenged by owners, trainers, and others with an interest in keeping their horses racing.

That said, here are the specifics of the event in question: On July 4, 2012 at Canterbury Race Track, a day on which racing had been cancelled due to heat index numbers over 100, a trailer carrying 4 horses arrived at Canterbury from Texas, in a manner not ever experienced by the Canterbury staff: The horse trailer was attached to a pick up truck and both the truck and trailer were sitting atop a flat bed trailer being hauled by a semi – not due to any breakdown or malfunction of the truck or horse trailer – it was deliberately hauled in that manner. The semi had no appropriate place to unload the horse trailer and truck and thus the horses were “stranded” in the trailer, in the 100+ degree heat, while Canterbury staff tried to figure out how to unload the trailer to get the horses off to safety.

After staff called Dr. Hovda to the track, Dr. Hovda and two other MRC Veterinarians determined that the horses were showing signs of distress, having been on the trailer in that heat for about 23-­?25 hours. And not knowing how long they would have to remain in the hot trailer, and after getting permission from the groom who had arrived with the horses, they treated the horses with a medication called Banamine, a non-­?steroidal anti-­?inflammatory drug to help prevent or mitigate the negative impact on the horses of the heat and duration of their trip. An hour or so later, the Canterbury staff was able to get the horses unloaded safely and they were treated by the trainer’s veterinarian.

Since that day Dr. Hovda has spoken with several well-­?known and knowledgeable equine veterinarians, all of whom agreed that Dr. Hovda’s treatment of the horses on July 4 was not only appropriate under the circumstances but also necessary to protect the horses. Among those Dr. Hovda consulted were Dr. Kim Voller, Anoka Equine Veterinary Services, Dr. John King, Executive Director of the Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Brad Gordon, Minnesota Racing Commission Track Veterinarian prior to Dr. Hovda’s tenure at the Commission which began in 1995.

The investigator retained by MM&B, Mr. William Everett of the firm of Everett & Vanderwiel, interviewed Dr. Hovda on September 10. Dr. Hovda explained at great length that her treatment of the horses confined to the trailer in the heat on that afternoon with Banamine was not only necessary and appropriate to their condition, but was also done only after she and Commission Veterinarian Jacquie Rich got permission from the horses’ groom.

Mr. Everett said at the conclusion of that interview that his fact finding was complete and that he would be preparing a written report to the Commission for their review and determination. Dr. Hovda has heard nothing about this matter since that date. In addition, Dr. Hovda has been informed that Mr. Everett has not interviewed Mr. Krueger, her boss, who consulted with her at the time she was making the decisions in question.

The bottom line is this – Dr. Hovda did her job and did it well, saving four horses from possible injury or death. Her actions are supported by numerous experts in the field. And yet, the Commission has permitted this ordeal to linger for more than a month since the fact-­?finding was complete. And during this entire ordeal, while being left to twist slowly in the wind, Dr. Hovda has abided by the Commission’s admonition not to disclose or discuss the investigation. Until now – after the Commission chose to disclose the damaging fact of the investigation’s existence, without the details that make it clear the investigation concerns a question of veterinary judgment. At this time Dr. Hovda leaves it to others to address the manner in which the Commission has been functioning, as reflected in its handling of this situation and others. But she does want her good name back and demands that the Commission release and confirm the facts and context of the investigation rather than simply a single damning headline.