Prominent Minneapolis business attorney Ralph Strangis is the new chair of the Minnesota Racing Commission, replacing former chair Jesse Overton after the commission spent much of the past year in controversy.
Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday appointed Strangis, a longtime advisor to the airline industry, the Minnesota Twins and other businesses, to chair the commission, which regulates Minnesota’s horse racing industry, including the state’s two horse racing tracks. Overton was also reappointed to the board by the governor, who in addition named Thomas DiPasquale to the nine-member public body.
Strangis, who chaired the commission two decades ago, is the law partner of Sam Kaplan, who was appointed by President Obama as the U.S. ambassador to Morocco.
“[Strangis’] previous experience chairing the commission and his many other successful ventures will be invaluable at this important time,” Dayton said in a statement Monday. Strangis, according to the commission, was last licensed as a horse owner in Minnesota in 1996.
Overton found himself in the midst of a controversy last fall when two top racing commission officials, including chief veterinarian Dr. Lynn Hovda, were investigated by the state budget office. Both officials were later exonerated. One of them, Mary Manney, the deputy executive director, had been accused of making disparaging remarks regarding Overton.
The incidents also left Overton in the spotlight. With his term set to expire Sunday, Overton said last week he did not know whether he would be reappointed. A spokesman for the Minnesota Management and Budget Office said again Monday that a separate investigation of Overton involving an undisclosed episode was not yet complete.
In other issues facing the regulatory body, the commission has been told by the governor’s office to reopen its search for a new executive director, a position that has been vacant since last October.