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Foss: NYRA CEO's resignation stirs up old concerns

Foss: NYRA CEO's resignation stirs up old concerns

Foss: NYRA CEO's resignation stirs up old concerns
Former NYRA CEO and President Chris Kay speaks during the 2018 Travers Draw.

Every once in a while, when fixing up our jungle-like back yard seems like an impossible task, I tell my husband, "You know, we could hire a landscaper."

It's not that I mind working on my yard, or my house. 

It's that I sometimes see the value in hiring people to do work that would otherwise consume a lot of my time. Or my husband's time. I don't mind paying other people for their labor. Indeed, I think it's the right thing to do. 

Perhaps this is why I'm so perplexed by the surprise and abrupt resignation of Chris Kay, until last week the head of the New York Racing Association. 

As head of NYRA, Kay earned a handsome sum.

His base salary, when he was hired in 2013, was $300,000. A year into his tenure, he received a $250,000 bonus. He made more money than the vast majority of Americans. 

And yet rather than hire outside help to work on his $724,000 home, the way you or I or most other people would, he reportedly used NYRA employees to work on his house, a violation of company policy. 

Using NYRA employees in this fashion would be wrong even if it weren't a violation of company policy. The men and women who work for NYRA are not the CEO's personal servants, to be used as he or she sees fit. 

Of course, the bigger mystery is why Kay would risk his high-paying and prestigious job by misusing NYRA employees. 

Presumably one of the advantages of a six-figure salary is that it enables you to hire people to do the work you'd rather not do -- to follow the rules and not cut corners. 

What makes Kay's resignation so unfortunate is that it's another black eye for an organization that appeared to be heading in the right direction. 

Kay was hired to serve as NYRA CEO when the organization was under state control, the result of years of controversy. 

He steered the organization onto better financial ground and re-privatization, and has overseen numerous upgrades at Saratoga Race Course, including the construction of a multi-million dollar luxury clubhouse. NYRA also made money every year Kay was in charge. 

Now Kay is the second NYRA CEO in a row to resign in scandal. 

The previous CEO, Charles Hayward, was fired amidst a betting scandal, which spurred the state's takeover of NYRA. 

NYRA was surely hoping to put its scandalous past behind it. 

But Kay's alleged misbehavior raises some of the old concerns about NYRA. It's a step backward, and it undermines the public's confidence the organization worked so hard to restore. 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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