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An Open Letter to New York Governor Kathy Hochul from Thomas Hauser (continuation)

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  • An Open Letter to New York Governor Kathy Hochul from Thomas Hauser (continuation)

    As noted above, Kim Sumbler is the NYSAC executive director. According to SeeThroughNY, her salary in 2020 was $133,896. The previous (pre-pandemic) year, it was $132,964.

    The New York State Athletic Commission is located at 123 William Street in Manhattan (which as you know from your travels throughout the state, is one of New York City's five boroughs). Sumbler lives in Ontario. Multiple sources say that, prior to the pandemic, she was seldom in the William Street office and that, after the office reopened last year, she was largely a no-show.

    One of the points that the Inspector General's 2016 report made in criticizing Melvina Lathan was that she was only in the William Street office four days a week. For Sumbler, that number might be closer to four days a month. Sumbler has said that she works at home and out of a Department of State office in Buffalo. But to be effective, an executive director should be where the action is.

    Or phrased differently, how many agency heads in your administration lead from their home in Canada? And what exactly does Kim Sumbler do five days a week?

    There are also instances where hourly payments to NYSAC employees should be reviewed.

    Angela Gagliardi is the assistant chief medical officer for the New York State Athletic Commission. Sources say that, prior to the pandemic, Dr. Gagliardi (listed by SeeThroughNY as an hourly employee) worked from home and came into the office one day a week. Her responsibilities included coordinating medical matters for the commission in addition to attending weigh-ins and fights. In 2019, her salary, as listed by SeeThroughNY, was $185,875.

    In 2020 (the first year of the pandemic when there were virtually no fights in New York), the state paid Dr. Gagliardi $168,980. She was listed by SeeThroughNY as an hourly employee at a pay rate of $78 per hour. This means that, in theory, Dr. Gagliardi worked 2,166 hours in 2020 (42 hours per week).

    What did Dr. Gagliardi do to occupy her time for 2,166 hours?

    In February 2020, she communicated with close to one hundred NYSAC personnel regarding the manner in which they should rent vehicles while traveling on official NYSAC business. You might ask why New York taxpayers were paying a doctor an hourly rate to do this and whether it could have been done by Kim Sumbler or an office administrator as part of their duties.

    Dr. Gagliardi also contacted commission employees (including non-medical and per diem personnel) on a monthly basis in 2020 about the administrative requirement that all NYSAC business be transacted on Department of State servers rather than private email accounts and instructed them to send at least one email each month on their Department of State email account to keep their account active.

    In addition, on November 2, 2020, and again on November 6, 2020, Dr. Gagliardi sent emails to the "NYSAC team" stating that she was "assisting with Veterans Day activity" and encouraging veterans and their families to "share a bio, pictures and/or personal stories related to their vast experiences."
    performance and the most dangerous and damaging to the health of both the opponent and the fighters themselves."

    If there's a reason other than stupidity that EPO isn't on the list of banned substances for combat sports in New York, I don't know what it is.

    Let me quote something I wrote in 2019 about medical practices at the NYSAC.

    "What precisely should a commission inspector do if a fighter collapses in the dressing room after a fight? Calling a doctor would be a good start. Okay. How should the inspector call a doctor? Does the inspector leave the fighter unattended while he (or she) runs to ringside to look for a commission doctor? That could take a long time. Does the inspector telephone 911? Probably not since, pursuant to NYSAC regulations, there should already be paramedics and an ambulance on site. Does the inspector telephone someone at a designated number? I've spoken with numerous inspectors and other 'back of the house' NYSAC personnel. If there's a protocol in place, they don't know about it."

    In response to this criticism, on February 18, 2020, the NYSAC approved a 32-page "Medical Emergency Action Plan" that was sent to all commission employees. The plan, one lawyer said at the time, is "a plaintiffs' lawyer's dream." It has two flow charts that look like they were pieced together by a pre-school toddler sticking colored rectangles on a magnetic board and is deficient in myriad ways.

    Among other things, the plan contains the statement, "Staff Contact List/Emergency Contacts. For each event, a list of NYSAC staff working the event with cell phone numbers will be distributed. Emergency contact information for venue management, EMS and the promoters will also be included."

    Two years later, this emergency contact information is still not being distributed to inspectors on fight night.

    Sloppy administration.

    I might add here that, on fight nights, the NYSAC also endangers its own personnel by not following its mandated COVID protocols. At a recent fight card at Madison Square Garden, dozens of commission personnel were crammed into a small room at the start of the evening. Social distancing was impossible. Numerous commission personnel, including Sumbler, were unmasked for extended periods of time. One person who was there complained afterward that James Vosswinkel (a NYSAC commissioner and physician) "was walking around with his mouth and nose uncovered and his mask dangling from one ear."

    Many of the commission's per diem employees are poorly trained. It doesn't help for an inspector (some of whom are excellent public servants) to watch a fighter's hands being wrapped in the dressing room before a fight if the inspector doesn't know what to look for (which most NYSAC inspectors don't).

    Inspectors whose performance is clearly substandard have been allowed to stay on the job too long. Sometimes this is because they're well-connected politically. Other times, it's because those in an oversight role haven't noticed, simply don't care, or are afraid of unwarranted litigation if the employee is terminated.

    There are some good referees and judges at the New York State Athletic Commission and also some bad ones.

    No referee gets everything right. But when a referee makes a mistake, there should be constructive follow-up by the commission, both with the referee and in the form of an acknowledgement to the aggrieved fighter and the public. This doesn't happen.

    As for the judging; I've been at fights in New York when the crowd favorite has been awarded a decision that was so unfair that the crowd actually booed. Fight fans want their fighter to win, but they also have a sense of fairness.

    In one instance, a judge's scorecard was so off the mark that, after the fourth round, a deputy commissioner was dispatched to ask him if he was confused as to which fighter was which. That was hard to confuse, since the cards filled out by judges after each round clearly designate a "red" and "blue" corner. The judge denied that he had confused the fighters. Asked for comment on the judge's scorecard after the fight, a spokesperson for the NYSAC responded, "We have no comment."

    A fighter spends years toiling in pursuit of a dream. And it can be taken away in seconds by an incompetent or corrupt judge.

    Major sports leagues such as the NFL and NBA acknowledge it when an official makes a mistake. These acknowledgments don't undermine the officiating. They reaffirm the integrity of the officiating process and the commitment of the supervising authority to getting things right.

    Kim Sumbler was named acting executive director of the New York State Athletic Commission in July 2017. Soon after that, her appointment became permanent. She has had almost five years to put her imprint on the commission and, for almost five years, I've tried to give her the benefit of the doubt.

    Sumbler has proven to be an adept political player. That's a good skill to have. The question is whether she has utilized this skill to make the commission better. Let's look at another case study

    On November 1, 2019, Kelvin Gastelum weighed in for a UFC-244 match to be contested at Madison Square Garden against Darren Till. The contract weight was 186 pounds. It was widely known in the MMA community that Gastelum had been having trouble making weight. Before stepping on the scale, he stripped down completely naked and a towel was lifted in front of him to shield his genitals from public view. Then, to everyone's surprise, his weight was announced as 184 pounds. That was a full two pounds under the contract weight. But - and this is an elephant-sized "but" - video of the weigh-in shows Gastelum resting his elbow on his coach, Rafael Cordeiro, as he stood on the scale. And the NYSAC officials conducting the weigh-in missed it.

    You might ask, "How did NYSAC allow this to happen?"

    In answering that question, I'll start by noting that weigh-ins for major fights in New York City are usually overseen by deputy commissioners Robert Orlando and George Ward. Orlando and Ward are retired New York City corrections officers. Each man has been with the commission for decades and knows all the tricks. But while on site and readying for the Gastelum-Till weigh-in, Orlando and Ward were advised by Sumbler that they were being replaced at the scales by two less experienced commission employees who had been brought to New York City from upstate. When one of the deputy commissioners asked why they were being replaced, he was told "because I said so."

    You're a smart woman, Governor Hochul. Put the pieces together on that one.

    There's also a leadership void at the NYSAC at the commissioner level.

    The New York State Athletic Commission has five commissioners who, in theory, are charged with making policy for the commission. But the commissioners rarely, if ever, discuss issues of importance. In some instances, they aren't even aware of them.

    Lino Garcia is the most recently appointed commissioner. On June 7, 2021, the New York State Senate approved more than fifty last-minute nominations by Governor Cuomo to various state agency boards and commissions without serious discussion or debate. Garcia was among them. He's president of a company called Unanimo Sports Media and has extensive experience in sports marketing. Nothing on his resume indicates expertise with regard to the issues facing the combat sports industry today. And one might ask whether his day job poses a conflict of interest.

    My understanding (which the Department of State won't confirm or deny) is that the other four commissioners are serving on a holdover basis. In other words, their terms have expired and, unless reappointed, they'll stay on until replaced. One of these commissioners (a man of considerable past accomplishment) has significant cognitive deficits due to the ravages of old age. Another has little interest in boxing or mixed martial arts but accepted the position at the urging of a colleague. By and large, they don't understand combat sports from a business or competitive point of view.

    Let me ask you a question, Governor Hochul. Before I started writing, I went to law school at Columbia, clerked for a federal judge, and spent five years as a litigator on Wall Street with a law firm called Cravath Swaine & Moore. I'm politically aware and largely in agreement with you on the issues that the State of New York faces today. I'm pretty smart. Would you hire me to run your gubernatorial campaign? Of course, not. Why not? Because I don't have any experience running political campaigns.

    So why do you have five commissioners at the NYSAC who, as a group, are largely uninformed about the inner workings of combat sports? They might be fans. They might be honest, intelligent, hard-working individuals (although one of them, as noted, has serious cognitive issues). But how can they possibly make and evaluate the implementation of NYSAC policy when they don't have expertise in the industry they're charged with regulating?

    The people you appoint as commissioners will say a lot about your commitment to good government.

    Governor Hochul, in your August 24 speech, you promised "a dramatic change in culture, with accountability and no tolerance for individuals who cross the line." You also declared, "You’ll find me to be direct, straight-talking, and decisive."

    The New York State Athletic Commission represents an opportunity for you to prove the truth of those words. We're not talking about radical political change or big spending. In fact, the reforms I'm talking about will save the state money. We're talking about competent administration, the implementation of standards and accountability, addressing legitimate health and safety concerns, upholding existing laws, and applying common sense. These are not big lifts.

    In 2016, I wrote, "The NYSAC is broken. It can be fixed if Governor Cuomo is more interested in getting it to function properly than in using it as a vehicle for granting political favors and repaying political debts. It’s not hard to do the job right if conscientious, hard-working men and women who understand the sport and business of boxing are pressed into service at every level. Political observers should watch the New York State Athletic Commission closely. Not because they care about combat sports; most of them don’t. But because it offers an easily understood case study on how Andrew Cuomo governs. Either Andrew Cuomo is serious about good government or he isn’t."

    Now it's your turn. You might say, "Well, I need to make certain accommodations and put certain people in important positions at the NYSAC and allow certain dicey things to happen to get the campaign contributions and power I need to do good works on a broader scale. That's the way politics works."

    Or you might take a different view.

    So . . . Governor Hochul . . . Will it be business as usual at the New York State Athletic Commission or do you plan to fix this?

    I'll be happy to discuss these issues further with a member of your staff if you'd like.
    Last edited by AcidArne; 01-23-2022, 06:48 PM.
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