EQUESTRIAN RELEASES USOC STIPULATION, LEONE COMMUNICATION AND RESPONSE
USA Equestrian (formerly
American Horse Shows Association), the national
equestrian federation for the United States, today issued an email
communication to its board from United States Equestrian Team (USET)
president Armand Leone, Jr. It also issued its response to Dr. Leone,
well as the stipulation entered into before the United States Olympic
Committee (USOC) between both parties on October 19. The USET commenced
litigation against USA Equestrian in February 2001, attempting to take
the role of equestrian sport's National Governing Body (NGB) through a
formal challenge before the USOC of USA Equestrian's historic status.
A special teleconference
meeting of its Board of Directors has been
scheduled by USA Equestrian for Tuesday, November 13, at Noon Eastern
Arrangements are being made for media and public participation.
Dr. Leone criticizes
USA Equestrian and its president, Alan F. Balch, for
refusing to withdraw a motion "seeking relief in aid of litigant's
pending in New Jersey Superior Court since October 3, to apply the Court's
ruling of August 16 to USET's attempted corporate acts since then. However,
USA Equestrian attorneys point out that the stipulation agreed to by all
parties during the latest mediation includes no reference to pending
litigation, including the New Jersey motion which was pending at the time
the renewed mediation began. The officers of USA Equestrian, on advice
counsel, unanimously agreed that the motion ought to be postponed if
possible, but not withdrawn. In addition to Balch, they are Judith Werner,
Linda Allen, Kathy Meyer, David O'Connor, and Stephen O. Hawkins.
An email from Leone
to Balch on October 21, when the mediation was underway,
states: "I would suggest that, provided I can get the USET board
in principle to pursue this solution, you offer to have your NJ attorneys
'carry the motion' until the next motion day (the Friday two weeks after
10/26) and if we are close to resolution for another 2 weeks so we can
definitive documents. Carrying the motion does not dismiss it, it simply
just says that the parties agree to have the judge decide it at the later
date. Politically it is important for you to make the gesture. You should
fully expect a significant number of trustees to insist that you dismiss
NJ lawsuit in its entirety; however, this is an answer that I can buy
without jeopardizing your position (whatever that may or may not be) before
the Court and can be described as a step on the way to dismissal pending
USA Equestrian complied
with this request from Dr. Leone. Although the
Court initially denied it, and the USET refused to join with USA Equestrian
attorneys in seeking further consideration, Balch authorized his counsel
try again, unilaterally, given the importance of the settlement. The judge
agreed on the afternoon of Thursday, October 25, to postpone hearing the
motion until November 16, as Dr. Leone had asked. However, the USET board
of trustees had met on Wednesday, October 24, and applied new conditions
settlement discussions to continue, specifically the requirement that
motion be withdrawn, not postponed as originally suggested by Dr. Leone
behalf of USET.
"While we recognize that everyone in the sport is dismayed by all
of resources on legal wrangling, as we are," said Balch, "the
good faith, fairness, and good corporate governance are critical to uphold.
The USET's leadership is now apparently attempting to personalize the
even more than in the past, and draw attention away from its own conduct.
Fortunately, the communications from Dr. Leone, and the stipulation, as
as the New Jersey legal documents, speak for themselves much louder than
ever could. When our board meets in a very short time, we will welcome
opportunity to discuss all this at length, publicly, and provide the full
story to anyone interested."
The USOC board of
directors met in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 27 and
28, 2001. Its General Counsel, Jeff Benz, entered the stipulation between
the parties into the official record, and made it available publicly.
reiterated that absent a settlement between USET and USA Equestrian, the
decision of the hearing panel that had met in Austin, Texas, earlier in
month, would be issued in writing, and approval of that decision would
obtained from the USOC board by mail ballot.
Balch commented, "I
made it clear to Mr. Benz on behalf of our membership,
as I have so often, that we are still entirely willing, as we have been
years, to reach a settlement through mediation. We made that abundantly
clear in the hearing and in all the months leading up to it, as well.
sometimes forget, but we never should, that none of this litigation has
welcomed by us. Every penny we have spent has been only in defense of
organization, and the historic governance structure of the sport that
served us well for over 50 years."
All documents referred
to above are available at
USA Equestrian Inc., as the National Equestrian Federation of
the U.S., is the regulatory body for the Olympic and World Championship
sports of dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, reining, show jumping,
and vaulting, as well as 19 other breeds and disciplines of equestrian
competition. As the country's largest multi-breed organization, the Federation
has over 77,000 members and recognizes more than 2,800 competitions nationwide
each year. It governs all aspects of competition, including educating
and licensing all judges, stewards, and technical delegates who officiate
at these shows.