Ann Mahoney, the controversial member of the Thoroughbred Board of the Maryland Racing Commission, used her confirmation hearing before a State Senate committee today to level charges of impropriety and mismanagement against the board.
Mahoney, who has served on the board since October, told the Executive Nominations Committee:
That minutes of board meetings are incomplete and inaccurate and that minutes are not kept at closed meetings as they should be.
That the board failed to seek competitive bids, as required by state law, before approving track improvements out of a kitty funded by onehalf of 1 percent of the state's parimutuel takeout. She also said the board had approved improvements of almost $8 million for which funds had not yet been generated.
That Board Chairman Robert Banning has delegated a number of his duties to James A. Callahan, the executive secretary of the racing commission.
That a recent commission report on permissive medication -- But (a painkiller) and lasix (a diuretic) -- was "a farce" and that Donald Levinson, who compiled it, did not interview the state vet and chief chemist.
"The drug problem here in Maryland could be a major scandal if it is not looked into," she said. Mahoney said she favored horses running "only on oats and hay."
As a result of her charges, the vote on her appointment was postponed until next Monday, when Committee Chairman Peggy Schweinhaut (D-Montgomery) said she would ask Banning and Callahan to appear and would seek the minutes of recent board meetings.
Commissioner Robert W. Furtick, reached at his Baltimore area home tonight, said, "I'd say she's off base completely in everything she says."
Callahan said tonight, "I can't speak for the commissioners. You'll have to ask them." But he said Mahoney was shown competitive bids for improvement jobs she cited as examples at Pimlico Race Course.
Banning could not be reached for comment.
Mahoney also charged that it was illegal for the board to reimburse the tracks for improvements already made before the tracks sought money from the committee.
Egner Johnson, the new secretary of licensing and regulation under new Gov. Harry Hughes, said the attorney general's office has ruled the practice legal.
Johnson, whose purview includes the racing commission, said Mahoney had discussed with him Friday the topics she covered in the open hearing today. He said, "She misconstrued some law, but she raises some valid points in terms of management."
Johnson said Mahoney had been turned down in her request for an immediate audit of the commission by the state's legislative auditor because the commission's regular audit is scheduled for this summer.
Mahoney is filling a vacancy created when Carle Jackson resigned from the commission last year. His five-year term expires June 30. Mahoney was appointed by the acting governor then, Blair Lee III. Hughes is not expected to reappoint her. She said she is seeking reappointment, but has not been able to arrange a meeting with the governor.