Friday, August 17, 2012

Arizona Dog Track Regulator Denies Cover Up, But Facts Speak For Themselves

Bella Kingnarmer was injured at Tucson Greyhound Park in 2009
Two days ago, Arizona Department of Racing Director William Walsh wrote to us and denied that his agency has refused GREY2K USA public information requests for greyhound injury data. In part, his letter stated:
"The Department of Racing has not 'denied' GREY2K USA access to any public records it maintains."
This response is not only disingenuous, it is deeply misleading. The fact is, the Department of Racing is using a sneaky tactic to prevent the public from having access to information about greyhound injuries. GREY2K USA immediately responded to Walsh, and addressed this sneaky tactic.

Below, you will find a full copy of our letter. A digital copy, with endnotes and supporting documentation can be downloaded here. Hopefully, the Department will soon realize that this wrongheaded policy must end, and will provide the public with information about greyhound injuries.
"August 16, 2012
William J. Walsh, Director
Arizona Department of Racing
1110 West Washington St., Suite 260
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Dear Director Walsh,
Thank you for your correspondence dated August 15, 2012.  Please consider this a formal response to your letter.
Without question, the Arizona Department of Racing is willfully violating the Arizona Public Records Law. Specifically, the Department is intentionally not keeping physical possession of records related to greyhound injuries at Tucson Greyhound Park, in a patently obvious attempt to prevent such records from entering the public domain.
Greyhound injury records were produced as public documents in Arizona until approximately November 2009, when the Department opted to begin skirting the public information law. Additionally, they are public documents in other jurisdictions, including West Virginia, Iowa and Texas.
This “hide and seek” tactic to skirt public information laws is not new. In fact, in 1993 an individual named Steve Barham withdrew his application to become the next Director of the Arizona Department of Racing after he admitted using this same tactic in another state. The Arizona Republic Editorial Board addressed this issue forcefully:
“What Arizona did not need was an individual who willfully would seek to come up with creative means to cut off public access absent legal justification.”
Attached, you will find a full copy of the Arizona Republic Editorial.
Additionally, this is not the first time the Department has shown a disregard for public transparency. For example:

On July 15, 2012 Arizona Racing Commissioner Rory Goree publicly stated that he was “mulling some bill ideas” to make public information requests much more difficult.

On September 12, 2011 Arizona Department of Racing Director Lonny Powell forwarded a message about dogs racing in extreme temperatures at Tucson Greyhound Park to various racetrack lobbyists and executives. At the top of his message, in large font, he wrote “Please…no e-mail responses back…….

Without question, the reports that were released prior to November 2009 demonstrate a serious problem. 
Specifically, between January 2007 and November 2009, 923 greyhound injuries were reported at Arizona racetracks. The most common injury was a broken leg, and other reported injuries included fractures, sprains, dislocations, muscle tears and strains, lacerations, a cracked skull, broken backs, heat stroke, puncture wounds and paralysis. Most greyhound injuries reported during this period were serious, and 67 were fatal or resulted in euthanasia. For example:
 ·         On April 11, 2009 a one-year-old brindle greyhound named Oxbow Savage died after he suffered a broken skull during a race at Tucson Greyhound Park.  The official injury report included the statement “Dangerous track – too wet!”
·         On February 23, 2007 a four-year-old white and brindle greyhound named Too Tall Sky was euthanized after he suffered a back injury during a race at Tucson Greyhound Park and had “no feeling” in his tail and rear legs. 
·         On August 12, 2009 a two-year-old brindle greyhound named Boc’s Flamingo was euthanized after suffering a broken leg during a race at Tucson Greyhound Park. According to the official injury report “surgical repair” was recommended but instead the individual responsible for the dog “decided on euthanasia.”
The public deserves to have access to this data, and it is not be in the best interest of the state for it to be withheld. We can only assume that the Department has chosen to block access to greyhound injury data because disclosure would not be in the financial interests of Tucson Greyhound Park.
In closing, I would like to remind you that you are not an employee of Tucson Greyhound Park. As a public official and state regulator, you represent the people of the State of Arizona. By playing hide and seek with Tucson Greyhound Park injury data, you are putting the interests of a private racetrack ahead of good public policy and the integrity of the Arizona Public Records Law.  It is my hope that you will reconsider this harmful policy and once again fully adhere to both the spirit and the letter of the law.
Christine A. Dorchak, Esq., President and General Counsel, GREY2K USA
cc: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer"

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