with IAHA Secretary
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 Commissioners 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 Browns 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 Garys
effort to provide our readers with the Executive Committees perspective.
Q: Why do you feel that prior to his resignation, Mr.
Brown repeatedly stated that he does not have the support of the
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 hed been saying that he had commitments
of a great deal of money for IAHAs Legal Defense Fund which never
materialized, and then it turned out hed 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 hes never been
refused coverage, so we dont 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 didnt 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 hed 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 its 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.
Its 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 Commissioners Office. Mike Brown is the Commissioner.
When Mike Brown was hired approximately nine years ago I dont think
anybody expected that hed be a life employee. Under the circumstances
its fairly remarkable that hes 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. Its my expectation
that by the time this November issue of AHW is out, an interim commissioner
will have been hired. We dont 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
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 Boggss 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 cant always trust what you hear on the street. As far as I know,
Browns resignation has never even been discussed in meetings with
David Boggs, let alone being a bargaining chip. So its absolutely
not true. There have been discussions at different junctures and David
Boggs has made several offers. If Id had any idea that a rumor that
we had settled with David Boggs would be so good for fund-raising, Id
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. Thats 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, weve been able to improve our computer system which
has been the bane of our existence at IAHA for quite a few years now.
Were highly optimistic that in the very near future, well
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 werent for the legal defense fund, we couldnt
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, its completely off base
but I think I should respond to it because its a misconception thats
floating around. Clearly there is an amount far greater than several hundred
thousand dollars committed so thats an inadequate accounting. While
the Boggs lawsuits are the immediate crises were 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
Q: Can you remember a time during your experience with
the breed that thereve been so many legal challenges facing IAHA?
A: I cant remember a time in my thirty-plus years of involvement
with the breed, and my familys long involvement with the breed,
that even remotely resembles this. Its not just legal challenges.
Theres a general level of viciousness out there that Ive never
seen nor experienced before, and I think its 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. Its been a very difficult couple of years
for the organization, particularly for the Executive Committee because
were attacked for doing too much, and were attacked for doing
too little. I realize we need to communicate more with the membership.
I think its crucially important that the membership stay informed
as to whats going on and whats being done. But in so many
instances our hands have been tied. As a result of these lawsuits we often
cant provide the information that we would like to the membership.
Furthermore, Ive 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, its been a difficult year for me. But
its also been difficult for all of the officers of IAHA. While weve
had to withstand a great deal, Im very proud to have served with
the people that Ive served with. To a person, the officers of IAHA
are 100 percent dedicated to the organization, and, quite frankly, I cant
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 Regions 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 youre talking about Karl Hart, he demanded that Mike
Brown be fired. He demanded that staff be fired which Im assuming
means Barbara Burke, he wasnt 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 dont 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 Regions 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. Hes used that newsletter as a personal forum to
distribute information that we dont feel is accurate, primarily
as it relates to the Boggs case.
Q: Please give us some background on IAHAs 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 were
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 were facing, were 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 were doing. We must not focus solely on the David Boggs litigation
and the related lawsuits. Its my hope that once we get past this
litigation others will be less anxious to sue the organization when theyre
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. Its often more comfortable for people,
especially when were 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, weve raised approximately $1.2 million in
cash and commitments.
Im impressed by that sum. Raising that kind of money is time-consuming.
You have to educate people. You cant just call them up cold and
say, Hey would you like to give us some money? Youve
got to make it clear why. Its important that every person who makes
a contribution understands up front that there are few guarantees involved
with this. In fact the only guarantee thats 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 thats 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. Weve
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 dont 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. Were 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
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 theres 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. Im told
that theres a great deal of interest throughout the world in whats
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 theyre pretty happy with what Im doing and
it doesnt cost them anything! (I dont even plan to ask IAHA
to reimburse me for my enormous phone bills.) Were not paying a
percentage to anybody and I suppose thats good. Its not something
that weve 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: Theres been talk of it, but quite frankly its been
put on hold. Its a pity, but theres 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 IAHAs 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 were
entitled as members. They do not charge for that service: its 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 thats largely the reason
we have the EPRB to deal with ethics violations within the breed
that dont occur at horse shows.
AHSA, too, has had to develop their legal defense fund I should
say our AHSA legal defense fund, since were 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. Theyve
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.
Theres 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 dont fall under AHSAs 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 years 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. Its important for us to consider
that Resolution 5-90 was passed ten years ago and I dont think anyone
envisioned that we would go a whole decade before we would review its
effectiveness and make some adjustments. One of the things Ive heard
people say is, Oh, they cant hire a commissioner until these
resolutions are passed or not passed because it changes the job description.
Well, these proposed resolutions absolutely dont change the job
description of the commissioner and I dont 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 boards 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 its chaired by the same individual who chaired the original
5-90 committee. This was not an attempt to emasculate the commissioners
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? Weve 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. Its 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 weve got a lot of work yet to do. And until were through
all of this I wouldnt 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.
Weve gone over 28,000 members for the first time in ten years. I
believe we have turned the corner and Im proud to have been a part
of that process. Now Id like to get back to the business of promoting
the Arabian horse and improving the quality of service to our members.