An inspector standard questioned a horse racing official’s health and fitness for his task. What transpired following.

ALBANY — In late 2018, a point out investigation quietly uncovered a sequence of troubling conclusions about the overall performance of a top Gaming Commission formal overseeing horse racing at the Saratoga Race Training course, Aqueduct Racetrack and Belmont Park.

But the report was never made general public — until eventually now, as component of a pledge of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration to be much more transparent.

The investigation more than a few many years in the past observed the official experienced on far more than a single celebration created poor, unilateral decisions over and above the scope of his occupation, which includes intervening in fiscal disputes amongst homeowners and trainers by withholding race winnings, a move that could be reasonably construed as displaying “favoritism,” an inspector general’s report uncovered. Colleagues advised investigators the formal was “arrogant, condescending, overwhelming and disrespectful” and acted like “God at the monitor.”

The investigation eventually concluded the Gaming Fee should really “rethink” retaining the formal, Steve Lewandowski, in his influential part as steward.

But Lewandowsi held his position for seven much more months, when he left voluntarily.

Gaming Commission spokesman Brad Maione stated Monday that the commission tried out to swap Lewandowski prior to the inspector general’s report owing to his general tenor, interactions with other staff and “inconsistent software of policies.” But Maione said it was challenging for the fee to uncover a substitute with the right qualifications and accreditations the fee in the long run sought and acquired a change in the legislation to transfer a new steward into the work.

Lewandowski reported he was fully unaware of the inspector general’s findings and had by no means viewed the report until a Instances Union reporter contacted him last week. No 1 in Gaming Fee administration at any time discussed the subject with him right after the inspector general’s office interviewed him, Lewandowski explained.

Lewandowksi denied any wrongdoing in a phone interview Friday. “I tried out to assistance people today,” he reported. He also pointed out he discovered the task “overwhelming” and inevitably made a decision to retire immediately after a long time of prolonged times functioning at the racetracks.

Maione said the commission does not share inspector standard reviews with their subjects, but that Lewandowski’s superiors reviewed his actions with him in various conversations. The final reports are a issue of community file.

Continue to, Lewandowski has continued to be a presence in the New York horse racing entire world. Two months ago, he testified in the defense of legendary trainer Bob Baffert, who the New York Racing Affiliation is trying to suspend from racing at its tracks as a final result of several drug violations in other states, such as a good exam after the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

In performing so, Lewandowski aligned himself towards NYRA, which operates racing at the similar three tracks exactly where he after held courtroom as a steward.

As steward, Lewandowski was the top rated state formal encouraging determine which thoroughbred horses would be permitted to race, and oversaw the testing barn made use of for gathering drug samples and administering violations at the tracks. He worked as a steward from 2014 to 2019 and served in other roles for the Gaming Commission considering that 1986.

1 certain allegation experienced prompted the inspector general’s investigation. In 2017, a thoroughbred race horse operator manufactured a complaint to the commission that Lewandowski was withholding the purse his horse won.

The thenacting Gaming Fee Inspector Typical Lisa Lee realized that the proprietor was in a dispute with his horse’s coach about fees the operator owed to the coach. Component of the disagreement stemmed from the trainer, by a veterinarian, administering remedies and treatments to the horse that the operator did not approve of, the owner described. The names of the coach and the operator ended up redacted from the report.

Whilst there was no civil judgement concerning the cash owed, Lee identified Lewandowski improperly withheld $5,000 in winnings from the owner for nearly a 12 months and to begin with denied entry into races to two of the owner’s horses.

Lewandowski did not notify other officers in the Gaming Commission about his determination to withhold the revenue, nor did he suspend the proprietor — a move that would enable the owner to attraction, Lee found. Lewandowski informed the Occasions Union he considered he asked for an investigation by the commission into the dispute, but the inspector common uncovered he did not.

“It’s rough for these trainers,” Lewandowski said. “Definitely, the Gaming Fee does not care irrespective of whether entrepreneurs shell out their expenditures or not.”

The report also mentioned that the actions of Lewandowski moderately appeared to be “favoritism.”

“His final decision to selectively intervene in this kind of disputes results in the community to reasonably issue his impartiality and finally, the integrity of racing,” Lee wrote.

Other Gaming Fee colleagues described Lewandowski as “negative for company,” according to the report.

“Lewandowski’s fitness to stand for the commission as a steward really should be reconsidered specified his actions in opposition to licensees who have not been suspended or revoked, his absence of comprehending as to his part vis-a-vis the Division of Horse Racing and Pari-Mutuel Wagering and the commission as a entire, as perfectly as his deficiency of document-keeping related to actions taken,” the report mentioned.

The report also encouraged that the commission create a published plan or treatment for handling money disputes in horse racing. The commission has not drafted this sort of a plan, Maione claimed.

“In 84 many years, no other steward has acted in this kind of a manner,” Maione said.