Josephine fair chief's accounting questioned

GRANTS PASS — The man who ran horse racing in June and July at Grants Pass Downs said former Josephine County Fair Manager Wes Brown's financial numbers for racing don't add up.

Other county officials, however, said the numbers were accurate.

"I don't believe he was interested in horse racing," said Lonnie Craig, who ran the nine-day race meet on a volunteer basis. "I think he used his own discretion in applying numbers to profit and loss."

Brown reported a loss of about $22,000 from horse racing to the Josephine County Fair Board Tuesday night.

A day later, he told County Commissioner Simon Hare of his plans to resign, according to Hare.

An official letter of resignation could not be confirmed by the Daily Courier.

Last year, Brown reported losses of $50,000 for the 2011 racing season.

By Craig's count, this year's races came close to breaking even, even though the handle (money wagered) was down more than 30 percent from 2011.

But Josephine County Chief Financial Officer Rosemary Padgett said Brown's accounting is accurate, and Hare also defended the accounting. The summary of revenue and expenses provided by Padgett actually shows a loss of just over $42,000. Padgett said $20,970 in internal service fees — administrative fees assessed on all county departments — were not included in Tuesday night's presentation that showed the $22,000 loss.

"Those numbers came from what was deposited with the treasurer," Padgett said, referring to the report delivered Tuesday night to the Fair Board.

The future of racing, a fixture for more than 50 years, remains cloudy for Grants Pass.

"We haven't had enough horses, we don't have enough jockeys. I'm not really sure where we're going to go forward," Hare said. "We're going to have to make some radical changes in how we're going to operate Grants Pass Downs."

Hare said accounting has improved.

"It's been a lot better than it used to be," he said. "We got a letter from our auditor when I took office that said our cash handling (at the fair) was something we had to improve on."

Brown declined a request for comment Friday morning.

At issue for Craig, and also for fair board member Dan Shepard, is $22,133 in administrative expenses for Brown and two other people at the fair office during horse racing. Craig also doesn't believe Brown collected on $6,800 in race-program advertising that was sold.

Brown was paid his normal salary during horse racing, Padgett said. The $22,133 administrative fees, while not actually paid to anyone, are still an additional expense on the spreadsheet.

"I have a hard time with that," Shepard said. "That means $7,000 in labor costs for each of them, for a nine-day meet."

It's standard accounting, "part of the cost of doing business," Padgett said.

The local people who race horses were never thrilled with Brown.

"It was a comedy of poor relationships all the time, no matter what went on," said Sally Reid, vice president of the Southern Oregon Horse Racing Association. "No matter what went on, there was always some conflict with Wes Brown."

Reach reporter Jeff Duewel at 541-474-3720 or jduewel@thedailycourier.com


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