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State auditors can't settle N.D. Racing Commission law

BISMARCK -- A state auditors' report legislators hoped would settle a debate over how the state Racing Commission spends its funds has left the issue unresolved.

BISMARCK -- A state auditors' report legislators hoped would settle a debate over how the state Racing Commission spends its funds has left the issue unresolved.

An attorney general's opinion is needed, says the report made public Wednesday.

Some legislators have proposed abolishing the Racing Commission because they contend the commission is violating a 2007 law barring breeders' fund money to supplement purses at the Fargo and Belcourt race tracks.

The commission voted earlier this year to again use $125,000 from the breeders' fund to augment purses.

The state Auditor's Office reports, "We are unable to determine if the ??...?? Racing Commission is in compliance."

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Auditors recommend an attorney general's opinion settle the matter. The commission asked for the opinion March 30.

Neither Rep. Shirley Meyer, who pushed for the 2007 law, nor Racing Commission Chairman Jim Clement of Mandan had seen the report as of late Wednesday and wouldn't comment. It will be presented Tuesday at a Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee meeting in the Capitol.

Auditors also said the Racing Commission used the wrong process and took too long to hire a contractor to create a registry of North Dakota-bred horses, awarding the contract to the higher of two bidders for $11,520, instead of the lower bidder for $7,200.

Having a contractor keep the registry was another mandate from the 2007 Legislature. Otherwise, it is kept by the commission's two-person staff.

The commission says it "inadvertently" used the wrong process.

Auditors said the Racing Commission has funds to support only one more year of live racing in Belcourt and Fargo. "The future of these funds is in jeopardy," auditors wrote, which is not news to racing officials and the Racing Commission. Auditors said the commission needs a plan to sustain future operations.

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