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Continued: Former racing regulator got job at Running Aces track she oversaw

Manney said Running Aces was “interested in my skills, experience and knowledge of the racing industry,” downplaying her move from regulator of Running Aces to government relations liaison for the harness track.

Conflict with Overton

In a separate finding that was critical of her professionalism, the state investigator found that Manney made disparaging remarks regarding Overton, the then-commission chair.

Within a month after Manney was placed on leave pending the completion of the investigation into her regulatory actions, she filed a gender-bias claim with the commission against Overton, prompting the separate, state investigation.

Overton was exonerated of any wrongdoing against Manney. The report, however, noted that Overton’s “different management style” had exacerbated personality conflicts. Overton was reappointed by Gov. Mark Dayton to the commission in July — but not as chair — and Overton resigned a few days afterward.

“As chairman, I became the villain,” Overton said. “What’s troubling today is that despite her violations, Ms. Manney has faced no consequences.”

The harness track’s general manager said he never reviewed the state’s investigation before hiring Manney, who, while regulating Running Aces, typically worked out of an office at the harness track. “I have no interest in that report,” said general manager Bob Farinella. “That involves matters that have nothing to do with our company or our operations.”

Letter of reprimand

Last December, after the investigation was completed, Manney first appealed to her supervisor — who happened to be Lane, the vice chair. Overton had excused himself due to Manney’s bias complaint against him. In an early March letter, he told her that “your appeal offered no new or additional evidence, and that certain of your objections are speculative or lack factual basis.”

Weeks later, Manney took her appeal before the entire racing commission and watched as Lane’s decision was overturned and the reprimand was removed from her file. Lane said the vote, held behind closed doors, was 4-2 for Manney. Lane abstained.

Dan Erhart, a commission member, was at the fore in overturning Lane’s decision. Erhart called some of the allegations against Manney “basically ridiculous.” He said the only issue that seemed to have merit was her action surrounding a blood-draw from a horse without the owner or trainer present.

“I did my own investigation,” Erhart said. “The [state] investigation didn’t talk to the right people.’’

Erhart acknowledged that many may think he was biased in favor of Running Aces, a business Erhart said he has long supported.

“I happened to get Running Aces located [in Anoka County] when I was on the County Board,” he said. “[But] I want both of those tracks to be very successful.’’

Sheila Engelmeier, Manney’s attorney, meanwhile criticized Lane’s role in the investigation. She claimed that the lawyer hired by the state to conduct Manney’s investigation “was a friend of Jim Lane, who’s joined at the hip” with Overton.

Lane dismissed the criticism.

“I never met him before in my life,” he said.

 

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