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An Open Letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul Regarding the NYSAC

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  • An Open Letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul Regarding the NYSAC

    Click image for larger version  Name:	nysac.PNG Views:	0 Size:	608.4 KB ID:	20677

    By Thomas Hauser

    Dear Governor Hochul -- I received several text messages earlier this month from someone I don't know who wrote to me about a problem at the New York State Athletic Commission. Two days later, I got a telephone call about the same issue from someone I respect and know reasonably well.

    These people reached out to me because, over the years, I've written a series of investigative reports about the New York State Athletic Commission. Sometimes the problems I write about are self-evident. Other times, people contact me regarding issues I'm unaware of in the hope that something I write will lead to positive change. On eight occasions, articles I've written have been honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America as the "best investigative reporting" of the year. In other words, there's some substance to what I write.

    I hope this article lands on your desk. The New York State Athletic Commission is a small state agency whose mandate pales in comparison to the job of overseeing public health, public education, mass transit, and a host of other needs. But because it's a small agency, it can be understood and the problems within it can be fixed.

    What's happening now at the NYSAC is happening on your watch. Andrew Cuomo is gone. How you deal with this situation will be regarded by people familiar with the issues involved as a litmus test for how you govern as opposed to how you talk about governing.

    First, a word about the New York State Athletic Commission, since you're probably only vaguely familiar with it. The NYSAC is charged with regulating combat sports in the State of New York. This means boxing, mixed martial arts, and professional wrestling. You might ask why the State of New York regulates professional wrestling (which is scripted entertainment). The answer is that some NYSAC employees like to be paid a per diem salary in addition to being reimbursed by taxpayers for the cost of meals and transportation to watch Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar cavort around a wrestling ring. You could save New York taxpayers some money by ending this silly regulatory practice.

    The New York State Athletic Commission falls within the jurisdiction of the New York State Department of State. This places it directly under your control.

    Some capable conscientious public servants work at the NYSAC. But too often, political connections take priority over performance. This applies to some - not all - fulltime jobs at the commission as well as the selection of fight-night officials such as inspectors, referees, and judges.

    On November 2, 2013, a Russian heavyweight named Magomed Abdusalamov suffered life-changing injuries in a boxing match at Madison Square Garden. Ultimately, the State of New York paid $22 million to Abdusalamov and his family to settle claims alleging substandard medical protocols and improper conduct by New York State Athletic Commission personnel that night.

    The Abdusalamov case led to an investigation of the NYSAC by the Inspector General of the State of New York that began as a review of the commission's medical practices and expanded into a broader study of its overall operation during the tenure of chairperson Melvina Lathan. The subsequent report of the Inspector General (which was released in 2016 and covered a wide range of issues, many of which were unrelated to Abdusalamov) documented numerous instances of incompetence and corruption at the NYSAC.

    There have been periods of good oversight at the NYSAC, most notably during the tenure of David Berlin. In May 2014, in the wake of the Abdusalamov tragedy, Berlin was brought in to serve as executive director of the commission. He was respected throughout the boxing industry as a competent, honest, knowledgeable administrator who refused to put a political agenda ahead of properly doing his job. Most notably, Berlin sought to implement standards and accountability and curb the use of the NYSAC as a favor bank for powerful economic interests and a source of employment for unqualified job seekers with politically-well-connected friends. Berlin's approach to his job offended your predecessor. In May 2016, he was fired. Since July 2017, Kim Sumbler (who to the best of my knowledge lives in Canada) has been the NYSAC executive director. Sumbler is more compliant in dealing with the powers that be than Berlin was.

    There are two fulltime positions on the NYSAC organizational chart directly below Sumbler - director of boxing and director of mixed martial arts. In recent years, Matt Delaglio and Ed Kunkle have done a credible job of filling these roles. But on September 3, 2021, Kunkle resigned. That set up the search for a new director of mixed martial arts and brings us to the text messages and telephone call that I received earlier this month.

    The first text message read, "Are you aware that the NYSAC hired Todd Anderson as the new MMA coordinator after the Commission manipulated job requirements? He would not have qualified under previous posting."

    This text was accompanied by a screen shot of a statement posted on social media by a minor sanctioning body official that read in part, "To hire a person with Zero experience as a regulator to oversee and regulate combat sports in NYS is laughable and makes this state what it was prior to 2016. I have no faith in this state, its Department of State, or Athletic Commission."

    Then I received additional texts from the original correspondent with messages like, "I do not work for the commission nor have I been in a professional setting with Sumbler. But I have witnessed her nepotism in action with her sister Jackie, and I certainly am aware she's a long-term personal friend of Todd Anderson's . . . I do not know Todd. I'm sure he's a nice guy. But I find it odd that she would recruit a personal friend who resides in Canada . . . It's all deeply disappointing and disconcerting. Hiring Todd, who does not have the regulatory experience, is questionable for the integrity of the sport in NYS . . . I reached out to you because something about this scenario doesn't appear ethical or lawful. As a journalist, you have a voice which can be amplified."

    Then I received the telephone call that I mentioned above from someone I know and respect who also complained to me about Anderson's appointment. At that point, I decided to do some research.

    First, let me address the claim of "nepotism" relating to Sumbler and her sister. Prior to joining the New York State Athletic Commission, Sumbler oversaw combat sports for the Seneca Nation of Indians Athletic Commission. Her sister (Jackie Grant) now has that job. I assume that Sumbler had some input in her sister's selection. But that doesn't mean it was inappropriate.

    Then I turned my attention to Todd Anderson - a retired police officer who lived in Canada through the end of 2021. According to opengovca.com, Anderson was a sergeant with the Niagara Regional Police Service in Ontario. He's also an MMA referee who has been widely criticized for his performance.

    Go to Google. Type "Todd Anderson" after "exact word or phrase." Then, after "any of these words," type in "MMA." Now hit search. Some of the headlines that appear are, "Dana White is critical of UFC 208 main event referee Todd Anderson" and "Dana White blasts main event referee Todd Anderson." Scroll down and you'll come to an article entitled "The Top 10 Worst Referees in MMA of All Time." Anderson is #2 on the list. These lists are subjective. You could probably find an article posted somewhere that lists me as one of the ten worst boxing writers of all time. And Bellator seems comfortable with Anderson's refereeing. But one UFC insider recently told me, "Todd Anderson is a lousy referee."

    Of course, just because someone might be lacking as a referee doesn't mean that he, or she, isn't a fine administrator. So next, I looked at the qualifications required by the New York State Athletic Commission to be its director of mixed martial arts.

    Three years ago when the job opening was posted by the Department of State prior to Ed Kunkle's appointment, the listing read, "MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS: Five (5) years of supervisory regulatory experience overseeing Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Three (3) years of this experience must have been in a role exercising management responsibilities over staff."

    However, when the same opening was posted by the Department of State on September 20, 2021, it read, "MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS: Five (5) years of governmental regulatory experience in a supervisory or management role. Three (3) years of this experience must have been in a role exercising management responsibilities over staff."

    In other words, it was no longer required that the five years of regulatory experience in a supervisory or management role involve "overseeing Mixed Martial Arts." Instead, the applicant was required to demonstrate "skills with regard to composition of reports and memoranda" and "in-depth knowledge of professional and amateur Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)."

    So, let's look at Todd Anderson's "five years of governmental regulatory experience in a supervisory or management role," three years of which are required to have been "in a role exercising management responsibilities over staff" and also his "demonstration of skills with regard to composition of reports and memoranda."

    A well-placed source at the New York State Athletic Commission says the party line on this is, "Well, Todd was a police officer." A police officer in Canada who doesn't appear to have been in a supervisory or management role exercising management responsibilities over staff.

    The same source says that Sumbler led the interview process that resulted in Anderson's appointment.

    In an effort to confirm that Anderson had been appointed as the NYSAC's new director of mixed martial arts, I sent two emails to the Department of State public information officer assigned to the commission. Neither email elicited the courtesy of a response. I then sent a third email requesting interviews with Sumbler and Anderson. I hoped to speak with Sumbler, not only about Anderson but also about some of the larger issues that the NYSAC faces today. Again, there was no response.

    That's from the Andrew Cuomo school of transparency and open government.

    Finally, on January 15, Newsday reported Anderson's appointment.

    I don't know Todd Anderson. I don't know anything about his administrative ability. I do know that two people - one of whom I respect a great deal - have concerns about his appointment.

    Maybe Anderson will do a good job as director of MMA. But the process doesn't feel right. As the source who telephoned me about his appointment said, "Todd comes from Ontario. He's friendly with Kim Sumbler. It was clear that Kim wanted this from the start, and she chose Todd over at least one applicant who was clearly more qualified than he is. Coming to New York and fighting at Madison Square Garden or Barclays Center is the highest level of MMA in the world. And you're putting someone with no real regulatory experience in charge."

    Governor Hochul, when you took the oath of office last August, you pledged to implement "a dramatic change in culture with accountability and no tolerance for individuals who cross the line." That's a direct quote.


    Reporting on your January 5, 2022, State of the State address, the New York Times recounted, "Governor Hochul vowed to open a new chapter of ethical, more transparent government. The package of ethics and government reforms were meant to hold accountable elected officials in a State Capitol with a long history of graft and corruption."

    One component of good government is ensuring that taxpayers get fair value from employees who are on the public payroll. I question whether that's happening now at the New York State Athletic Commission.

    Continued below
    Last edited by AcidArne; 01-23-2022, 06:41 PM.

  • #2
    "There have been periods of good oversight at the NYSAC, most notably during the tenure of David Berlin."

    Hmmmm. "David Berlin’s current and former clients include trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas, promoter Salita Promotions, matchmaker Don Elbaum, manager Egis Klimas, manager Dave McWater, writer Tom Hauser, [emphasis added] and professional boxers Michael Moorer, Iran Barkley, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Saoul Mamby, Juan LaPorte, Aaron Davis, Joshua Clottey, Joey Gamache, Andy Lee, Charles Whittaker, Ivan Redkach and Eddie Chambers."

    I think the question here might be: would you say this about Berlin if you were not one of his clients? No doubt David is highly respected, but in my opinion, he seemed to lack the skills and/or toughness to survive in a predictably shark-infested political environment that should have come as no surprise to him. This is the case with many state commissions where political hacks can find a nice home. Nevada may be an exception.

    Moreover, offering to sit down with them after blasting them is a tad condescending. In the greater scheme of things, I suspect the governor's attention right now is on more serious issues than what's happening at the New York State Athletic Commission. Issues like Covid, crime, the state's economy, etc.
    Last edited by Kid Blast; 01-24-2022, 12:47 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Upon reflection and If I didn't know better (and maybe I don't), I believe Thomas is making a case to be appointed to the NY Commission. If so, I'd suggest caution as he may be a fine writer and solid attorney but dealing in shark-infested waters with experienced pols is quite another thing. After all, Berlin was canned, and he specialized in "boxing law" whatever that is. My suggestion: be very circumspect---that is, if my hunch is correct.

      Comment


      • #4
        First off that is a lot of words which leads to a lot of reading....... That said is the writer trying to stop a major problem at the NYSAC ? Or is it to bring light to the sad troubles of a fighter who was injured in the ring ? Then there is the politics of it all, I stay away from those as much as possible. Whatever it is, I would like to hear that the writer went to the office of the person(s) he is so troubled about not getting in touch with I mean emails and the like dont really carry much attention overall in serous matters you need to show up in person and without an invitation or even an annoucement. That always works. Show your face make your point and it will go somewhere. It might not go where you want it to but you will get yourself heard.

        Comment


        • Kid Blast
          Kid Blast commented
          Editing a comment
          Excellent points, 57Blues, excellent. It raises the question: Why not just show up and discuss the matter instead of writing "another" long and investigatory article that will probably win "another" award from the BWAA? Anyone who knows anything about NY boxing is well aware of the Commision's shortcomings--even long before the Gatti-Gamache weigh-in scandal. Moreover, Hauser's buddy, Berlin, did little if anything to help. That's probably why he was fired. Much adieu over what most serious boxing fans already know.

      • #5
        Serious boxing fans seem to not be enough ...so what is the problem of illuminating the rot with a little more light ...busy or not the new governor has a responsibly for all under her watch.

        Comment


        • Kid Blast
          Kid Blast commented
          Editing a comment
          Fine, but let's do it with complete transparency. I don't think this article does that. Singing David Berlin praises does not represent "more light" for me. Moreover, Hauser comes across to me as pompous. There is a lot of "me, me, me" in this article.

      • #6
        Kid me and you are on the same page I believe, this article uses points about a man who I am aware of how and when he lost his health in the ring but if the writer is so concerned and worried about what might happen in that reguard then bam go to the office do something besides write and speak of emails what is that weak effort.it is a start at best. From experience I know this. Go to the office and get there when they open, be a Budda sit and wait be persistent just wait bring a book a kindle a walkman but be there. Be polite but show your face use your name if you have to seems like the writer has name rec so what better way to help out. Put personalities aside stick to principles and concern for the well being of others in the fight game. Just my take,

        Comment


        • Kid Blast
          Kid Blast commented
          Editing a comment
          yessir! .............

      • #7
        Why are the writer's motives being questioned instead of looking at the state of affairs in NY? I was shocked when David Berlin became head of the commission because it made too much sense. Of course, because of that, he didn't last long. Why question the writer's motives? Are they as important as the subject he writes about?

        Comment


        • Kid Blast
          Kid Blast commented
          Editing a comment
          Russell, I agree with the subject in question (I even pointed out the Gatti-Gamache scandal), but I have my own strong opinion as to author's motives so we must agree to disagree. I'll be happy to exchange via email on this. All the best.

      • #8
        As a long-time MMA official, I can tell you that it’s a small world and everyone knows everyone in these circles. I have had the good fortune of having worked with Kim and Todd. I knew Todd when he was starting out. He was and is an extremely competent ref and judge. What’s more his personal integrity is beyond reproach.

        Here’s what people need to know about this situation. The original letter to this author was written by a highly incompetent official from Ontario whose MO is to get opportunities through political connections and working the press, rather through merit and earning it. This letter was written to paint Kim and Todd in a bad light and to take advantage of the political environment in NY where anyone who tries to implement change and weed out corruption is met with opposition by political cronies and members of the ruling class.

        Quite frankly, Anderson is the best possible choice and was chosen because he is a NY outsider and above the petty politics. It’s probably unlikely Kim and Todd will survive the politics of NY and the corruption inherent in fight sports in NY, which is a real shame, because if people understood what’s really happening they’d be as angry and disappointed as I am.

        Comment

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