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Interview with IAHA Secretary
Gary Dearth

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On September 20, 2000, Mike Brown, the IAHA Judges and Stewards Commissioner, resigned halfway through his most recent contract, effective January 31, 2001. During the past nine years the Commissioner’s office is most noted for its handling of the David Boggs case (see Arabian Horse World “What in the World” pages 6-7, 1999), and the Brad Gallún case (see the October 2000 issue, “At the Waterhole,” page 290).
Arabian Horse World invited the members of the IAHA Executive Committee to respond to questions about Brown’s resignation, the status of the Office of the Judges and Stewards Commissioner, the IAHA Legal Defense Fund, and a variety of related topics. With Nationals and Convention just around the corner, we tapped these gentlemen at an extremely busy moment, but Gary Dearth, Secretary of IAHA (1999-2000), found time to speak, although much of this interview was conducted via a cell phone as Gary hauled horses to Nationals. Prior to serving as IAHA Secretary, Gary was the Director of Region 8 for four years, and the Chairman of the Sweepstakes Commission. His family has been breeding Arabian horses for well over thirty years at Pine Ridge Arabians in Corrales, New Mexico. We appreciate Gary’s effort to provide our readers with the Executive Committee’s perspective.

Q: Why do you feel that prior to his resignation, Mr. Brown repeatedly stated that he does “not have the support of the Executive Committee”?
A: This talk of lack of support for Mike Brown has become rather tiresome. The Executive Committee, approximately a year and a half ago, gave Mike Brown a three-year contract rather than annual contract extensions which had been the tradition in the past. When you look at concrete support and not just talk, there is no stronger support than a three-year contract. However, information that came to light at the August Board meeting — the revelation that Brown had set up his own legal defense fund — severely eroded that support. This revelation created the appearance of impropriety, especially when he’d been saying that he had commitments of a great deal of money for IAHA’s Legal Defense Fund which never materialized, and then it turned out he’d been out soliciting funds for his own, personal, legal defense fund.
Mr. Brown has been defended by IAHA to the fullest degree all the way along. At the August Board Meeting when this all came to light, he said that he felt the need to set up his own legal defense fund to protect the assets of his family. Yet IAHA has been paying all of his legal bills. We have paid for the attorney he chose to use, and he’s never been refused coverage, so we don’t know why he felt he needed further protection. Furthermore, IAHA indemnified him, meaning that we hold him harmless for whatever he does as he functions in his job.
Mike Brown experienced a huge, rapid erosion of support that day. When this came to light at the Board Meeting, he strongly, clearly, and repeatedly stated that he wished to resign and this statement was addressed to the full Board, not to the Executive Committee. Therefore, I resent the characterization that the Executive Committee forced Mike Brown out, when in fact, the catalyst that led to his resignation was a very embarrassing situation caused by Mike Brown himself that came to light at the Board Meeting. He then stated to everyone in attendance, which was the full Board, that he wanted to resign, that he was tired, that he didn’t like the effect on his family that this was having, and he felt that it was time to go. He repeated those statements to the Executive Committee on two other days. A week later he repeated it to me, and at that time said that his attorney was contacting the IAHA attorney to work out the terms. The fact that he brought in his attorney at that early stage surprised us. A week following that he spent a number of days at Canadian Nationals having daily contact with Tom Connelly and Bill Pennington and said nothing other than he wanted to resign and wanted to get it taken care of as rapidly and cleanly as possible. The following week, while I was having a conversation with Don Severa about funds the ABA was raising for the legal defense fund, Don said to me that he’d had a conversation that day with Mike Brown and that Mike wanted to stay if he could have the proper support of the Executive Committee and the Board. That was absolutely, positively the first time that there was one word mentioned of Mike Brown wanting to stay and that was one day short of three weeks from when he first stated at the Board Meeting that he wanted to resign. I think it’s odd that we got the first inkling that Mike Brown might want to stay three weeks after the fact, and that it came through a third party.
That very day Brown was meeting with Tom Connelly and Bill Pennington to negotiate the resignation. So I contacted Pennington and Connelly with the information that I had just been given, but mind you, this was too late in the game.
It’s important to stress that the Executive Committee strongly supports the office of the Commissioner and the individual who is the Commissioner. Mike Brown is not the Commissioner’s Office. Mike Brown is the Commissioner. When Mike Brown was hired approximately nine years ago I don’t think anybody expected that he’d be a life employee. Under the circumstances it’s fairly remarkable that he’s been with us as long as he has and I hope the next person also has a long tenure.
Q: What steps are now being taken to fill the position of Judges and Stewards Commissioner?
A: A head hunter firm that IAHA has used in the past has been hired to help us search for commissioner candidates. It’s my expectation that by the time this November issue of AHW is out, an interim commissioner will have been hired. We don’t expect to go five minutes without a commissioner. We will hire a qualified new commissioner as soon as possible and in the meantime there will be an interim commissioner who is qualified.
Q: Where will that interim commissioner come from, within the ranks?
A: That interim commissioner will come from outside the industry and will have a legal background. There have been a lot of rumors about who is available and willing to fill in and the people whose names that we have heard tend to all be from within the industry. We think it would be more prudent to hire someone from outside the industry.
Q: What qualifications for the Judges and Stewards Commissioner will be particularly important to the selection committee or hiring body?
A: We will use the same job description that we used ten years ago with very little adjustment.
Q: The word on the street is that the Brown resignation may be tied to David Boggs’s ongoing efforts to negotiate a legal settlement with IAHA, a settlement that would include the rescinding of his five-year suspension from IAHA membership and privileges. In order to deal with this thinking, would you please comment on the following:
a) Has the name of Mike Brown or the office of Judges and Stewards Commissioner been used (even in the broadest sense) as a bargaining chip in “negotiation” meetings with Boggs, Tom Connelly, Bill Pennington, and/or other IAHA officers in Las Vegas (January 2000), the Canadian Nationals (August 2000), or at Denver at any time?
b) Would you as a member of the Executive Committee be willing under any circumstances to settle with David Boggs? If so, with what conditions?
c) Your feelings about IAHA membership commitment of several hundred thousand dollars for its Legal Defense Fund to continue the legal battle against David Boggs and to refrain from further “settlement conferences” with Boggs: Do you consider this a mandate, or at least a strong message from the members? Why or why not?

A: My first response to these questions is that this is proof that you can’t always trust what you hear on the street. As far as I know, Brown’s resignation has never even been discussed in meetings with David Boggs, let alone being a bargaining chip. So it’s absolutely not true. There have been discussions at different junctures and David Boggs has made several offers. If I’d had any idea that a rumor that we had settled with David Boggs would be so good for fund-raising, I’d have started the rumor myself months ago. The full board of IAHA voted in January by a large margin not to settle with David Boggs. Nothing has occurred since then to change that. That’s why the legal defense fund is so critical. It takes tremendous resources to fight multiple lawsuits without jeopardizing the financial health of the organization. And a strong legal defense fund has also allowed us to not be completely paralyzed financially by the litigation.
For instance, we’ve been able to improve our computer system which has been the bane of our existence at IAHA for quite a few years now. We’re highly optimistic that in the very near future, we’ll build our computer system to the point where it actually functions the way that it is supposed to. Also, members will be able to join IAHA and renew their membership online, and do National entries, Sweepstakes entries, and Futurity entries online, thus saving the organization a tremendous amount of money. If it weren’t for the legal defense fund, we couldn’t have dreamed of working on this project this year because every dime would be poised to deal with our legal situation.
As for part “C” of your question, it’s completely off base but I think I should respond to it because it’s a misconception that’s floating around. Clearly there is an amount far greater than several hundred thousand dollars committed so that’s an inadequate accounting. While the Boggs lawsuits are the immediate crises we’re dealing with, this is part of a long-term commitment. All of this money has to be donated with no strings attached. The only assurance that anyone is given is that it will go into the separate account for legal defense and the money will be spent on legal expenses. Beyond that, there are no strings explicit or implied.
Q: Can you remember a time during your experience with the breed that there’ve been so many legal challenges facing IAHA?
A: I can’t remember a time in my thirty-plus years of involvement with the breed, and my family’s long involvement with the breed, that even remotely resembles this. It’s not just legal challenges. There’s a general level of viciousness out there that I’ve never seen nor experienced before, and I think it’s unfortunate.
Clearly the Executive Committee of IAHA, the Board of IAHA and IAHA as a whole has made a strong step forward in trying to maintain a level playing field of competition and we are now having to pay for the litigation that has resulted from that. It’s been a very difficult couple of years for the organization, particularly for the Executive Committee because we’re attacked for doing too much, and we’re attacked for doing too little. I realize we need to communicate more with the membership. I think it’s crucially important that the membership stay informed as to what’s going on and what’s being done. But in so many instances our hands have been tied. As a result of these lawsuits we often can’t provide the information that we would like to the membership.
Furthermore, I’ve been personally attacked this year in ways I could never have dreamed of. There were months and months of libelous attacks by the individual who ran against me as Secretary two years ago. They were completely unfounded and when this individual was finally given a deadline by the Judges and Stewards Commissioner that he had to provide some concrete, verifiable information, he came up with no witnesses, no videos, no legitimate documentation, no statements, nothing. So I can tell you that personally, it’s been a difficult year for me. But it’s also been difficult for all of the officers of IAHA. While we’ve had to withstand a great deal, I’m very proud to have served with the people that I’ve served with. To a person, the officers of IAHA are 100 percent dedicated to the organization, and, quite frankly, I can’t imagine anyone working more diligently for an organization and its members than these people have worked.
Q: We understand that one Regional Director has been using his Region’s newsletter to criticize the EPRB, the Commissioner, the Executive Committee, and IAHA in general. How has the rest of the Board and the Executive Committee viewed this?
A: If you’re talking about Karl Hart, he demanded that Mike Brown be fired. He demanded that staff be fired which I’m assuming means Barbara Burke, he wasn’t specific. He demanded that the Executive Committee be replaced. He regularly claims that we should function like AHSA especially as it relates to their disciplinary process. AHSA has its own shortcomings and I don’t think many of us want to use it as the model for IAHA. This attack came out just prior to our last Board meeting, and prior to his Region’s elections in which he ran unopposed and was reelected. As you can imagine, it was a hot topic of discussion at the Board meeting. Quite a number of Board members, not just Executive Committee members, took great exception to it. This was the second Board of Directors meeting that included organized discussion about censuring a board member. He’s used that newsletter as a personal forum to distribute information that we don’t feel is accurate, primarily as it relates to the Boggs case.
Q: Please give us some background on IAHA’s Legal Defense Fund — why was it formed, how much money is in it, and how was it raised?
A: The legal defense fund was formed over a year ago. Initially, there was a belief that if we formed a legal defense fund, and we advertised it a little bit, promoted it a little bit, the money would flow in. That ends up not being true, which is probably the case with any kind of fund-raising. At the end of Convention last year, the amount that had been raised was a tiny fraction of what was needed to continue down the road that we’re on. So late last year, almost by default, I ended up taking over the legal defense fund and as a result started calling people. If you look at the expense involved with the litigation we’re facing, we’re talking about easily hundreds of thousands of dollars. Last year IAHA had over a $900,000 deficit and the vast majority of that loss was legal expense. It seemed to me that it was absolutely critical to the health of the organization that we not continue to pay legal fees out of the general fund of IAHA. My goal was to develop a legal defense fund that would allow us to survive the current litigation, as well as provide us with the resources to continue what we’re doing. We must not focus solely on the David Boggs litigation and the related lawsuits. It’s my hope that once we get past this litigation others will be less anxious to sue the organization when they’re unhappy with the results of the IAHA disciplinary process. But we can expect that there will probably be other challenges.
This year close to $400,000 (all in cash) was raised as of August 1 for the legal defense fund, and less than half of it has been spent so far on legal fees. But there will be some costly periods ahead of us. Since the Canadian Nationals over $800,000 in cash and pledges have been made to the legal defense fund. It’s often more comfortable for people, especially when we’re talking about large sums of money, to pledge over a period of time than just one lump sum payment up front. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve raised approximately $1.2 million in cash and commitments.
I’m impressed by that sum. Raising that kind of money is time-consuming. You have to educate people. You can’t just call them up cold and say, “Hey would you like to give us some money?” You’ve got to make it clear why. It’s important that every person who makes a contribution understands up front that there are few guarantees involved with this. In fact the only guarantee that’s made is that there is a separate legal defense fund account. The money is not intermingled in the general funds of IAHA and contrary to other programs in IAHA, the interest that’s generated will go back into the fund. I hold out some vain hope that we may be able to develop a substantial enough legal defense fund that it will actually be the interest earned on the fund that pays legal fees rather than the principal itself.
The contributions range from a few dollars to $250,000. Because I am a horse breeder and not a fund-raiser, this has been a real learning experience for me. And one of the first things that I figured out was that if we were going to raise a lot of money in a short time frame it was going to have to come from a relatively small group of individuals. We’ve also had donations from clubs and Regions, the largest contribution from a single club being $15,000. The largest personal contributors are Wade and Laura Cook for $250,000. We also have several $100,000 contributors, some of whom wish to remain anonymous. The Arabian Breeders Association has raised just over $200,000, primarily from two large contributions.
When a club or Region makes a contribution to IAHA they are listed on a printout that is distributed to each Director. This printout lists the totals of cash and pledges. Directors don’t receive the list of personal contributors — their names are confidential. For those who ask to donate anonymously, there is another way for their money to get into the legal defense fund which allows them great security and there is no way that their names can ever get out. We’re ready to accommodate whatever someone wants. If individuals wish to tell others about their contribution we certainly applaud them for doing so. The Cooks, who have made an enormous commitment to us, have made it very clear that they are quite proud of that commitment.
On an ongoing basis I would prefer that we look at the legal defense fund as a way of maintaining fairness and not focus on any one individual, even though there’s no question that the Boggs litigation has been the catalyst for all of this.
Q: Are there any foreign contributors to the Legal Defense Fund, and if so, what do you think is the motivation for them to contribute?
A: Yes, we have had contributions from foreigners. I’m told that there’s a great deal of interest throughout the world in what’s going on here in the States in terms of our efforts to maintain integrity in the showring. Apparently there is a strong desire among some individuals to contribute to our cause.
Q: Has IAHA ever considered hiring professional

A: I think they’re pretty happy with what I’m doing and it doesn’t cost them anything! (I don’t even plan to ask IAHA to reimburse me for my enormous phone bills.) We’re not paying a percentage to anybody and I suppose that’s good. It’s not something that we’ve contemplated — probably due in large part to the fact that this has been successful; $1.2 million is a lot of money.
Q: Are there any efforts being made within IAHA to develop viable, sustainable programs or sponsorships that would generate new revenues for the Association?
A: There’s been talk of it, but quite frankly it’s been put on hold. It’s a pity, but there’s only so much money and so much energy to go around. But corporate sponsorships are something we do need to deal with in a more aggressive way.
Q: In the interest of saving money on legal fees and minimizing IAHA’s exposure to lawsuits, is there merit to the idea of letting AHSA enforce our rules?
A: The Executive Committee does believe that more of the disciplinary end of things could be taken up by AHSA — a service to which we’re entitled as members. They do not charge for that service: it’s included in our membership. There have been occasions when Mike Brown has had the opportunity to choose between sending cases to AHSA or to our EPRB, and invariably he went to the EPRB. AHSA deals with horse show violations at horse shows almost exclusively, and that’s largely the reason we have the EPRB — to deal with ethics violations within the breed that don’t occur at horse shows.
AHSA, too, has had to develop their legal defense fund — I should say our AHSA legal defense fund, since we’re members of AHSA — when they were dealing with a big, high-profile insurance scam case. But for the most part, their legal defense seems to be adequate. They’ve got decades of legal precedent in the state of New York which certainly reduces the odds of people taking the organization to court at every turn. There’s no doubt that everything that falls under the jurisdiction of AHSA should go to AHSA. Still, the IAHA members seem to be strongly in favor of us having our own ethics body to deal with ethics violations that don’t fall under AHSA’s auspices.
Q: The September 2000 issue of Arabian Horse World published highlights of the proposed changes to Resolution 5-90 which will be voted on at this year’s Convention. Care to comment on them?
A: The resolutions that are being proposed are not as far-reaching as some would have you believe. I encourage everyone to request them or download them from IAHA and read them. It’s important for us to consider that Resolution 5-90 was passed ten years ago and I don’t think anyone envisioned that we would go a whole decade before we would review its effectiveness and make some adjustments. One of the things I’ve heard people say is, “Oh, they can’t hire a commissioner until these resolutions are passed or not passed because it changes the job description.” Well, these proposed resolutions absolutely don’t change the job description of the commissioner and I don’t believe that they weaken the position of the commissioner. They adjust the way the commissioner functions and refine the intent of
The resolutions are an outgrowth of a one-day meeting during which the full board of IAHA brainstormed about Resolution 5-90. With twenty-four people involved I would have expected a great deal more dissent when it came to discussing specifics of 5-90, but as it turns out that was not the case. The board’s collective thoughts were distilled and turned over to a committee to be refined and written into resolution form. Half of the people on that committee were members of the original 5-90 committee and it’s chaired by the same individual who chaired the original 5-90 committee. This was not an attempt to emasculate the commissioner’s office, to water down Resolution 5-90, or to change the spirit of it. Rather, it was an effort to refine Resolution 5-90 so that it works even better than it does currently.
Q: When you consider the toll that your two years on the Executive Committee has claimed, both in terms of time away from your “real job” as a breeder and trainer, and the stress, do you ever ask yourself if you really want to do it again? We’ve got another election coming up at the Convention this month. Are you sure you want to serve another two years?
A: There are days that I wonder. To be honest, this has been an enormous commitment of time and energy. It’s a huge undertaking both for myself and the other officers. We strongly believe that a healthy IAHA is vital to the future of the Arabian breed in this country. I feel that we’ve got a lot of work yet to do. And until we’re through all of this I wouldn’t even consider quitting.
Beyond my lifelong commitment to the Arabian breed, I would like to continue as an officer of IAHA because I believe we are on the cusp of things improving dramatically. A year ago we were facing an enormous deficit, the inability to pay for our expensive litigation, and falling membership. Now we have the resources to continue the fight in the courts to uphold our rules. We are not going to have a giant legal expense-induced deficit, and, best of all, memberships are up (by nearly 600) for the first time in a decade. We’ve gone over 28,000 members for the first time in ten years. I believe we have turned the corner and I’m proud to have been a part of that process. Now I’d like to get back to the business of promoting the Arabian horse and improving the quality of service to our members.