In the spirit of full disclosure — which, in truth, is what this column is all about — I have never met Frank Kling or John Roach.  Wouldn’t know them if they walked through my front door, even though I doubt that ever will happen. Couldn’t tell you what they look like; where they work; or whom their associates may be.

They very well could be good and decent people.  They may be honest, hard-working and great public servants. And, they may have — in their opinion — the Commonwealth’s best interest at heart. At all times.

I had no reason to believe otherwise.

Not until last Friday afternoon.

On Friday, that dynamic duo of Kling and Roach — who spend at least some of their time acting as the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Kentucky Racing Commission — released a disturbingly blatant denial to offer a public hearing in regards to a license application submitted by both Keeneland and Churchill Downs to construct, open, own, and operate two new racetracks in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

You see, earlier on Friday morning, the two historic racetracks – who just so happen to be two of the world’s most renown and respected Thoroughbred institutions, with hundreds of years of tradition and credibility stamped on their very names and reputations – filed a joint application to spend millions of dollars to create new racing venues in Corbin (in Southeast, Kentucky) and Oak Grove (in far West, Kentucky).

The license application was both remarkable and potentially rewarding. One would have thought it would have been received at the Kentucky Racing Commission with both excitement and full acceptance.

After all, it marked the first time in recent history and memory that the two racing institutions had combined forces to lend their collective names, reputations and dollars to reinvest in the Horse Industry in the Commonwealth.

After all, if permitted, it would mean millions upon millions of dollars worth of investment. It would mean new construction jobs in two areas of the state starving for economic development. It would mean new jobs, new tourism, and new economies.

After all, it seemed – at first blush – to be exactly what this Governor has cheerleaded for since he became the Governor – more private investment; more job creation; more jobs; more economic development. Doesn’t the theory of “rising tides floats all ships” apply here; or does that just mean The Big Ark up there in Northern Kentucky? But I digress.

Instead, it went over like a pile of horse manure suddenly dropped in a water bucket.

Let’s revisit what the Honorable Mr. Kling and Mr. Roach had to say in a press release:

“Over the last several months, we have informed Kentucky’s race tracks that we would not consider any applications for new race track facilities in Kentucky. Despite that communication, Churchill and Keeneland have chosen to submit an application for new race track facilities. At this time, neither of us have any plans to take any action related to this application or any other application for a new race track facility. It is our hope that in the future we will be able to develop a process and criteria to determine whether any new race track facilities are needed in the Commonwealth.”

Never mind that racetrack is one word, and should be spelled as such, the release is so disturbing in so many ways.

First of all, the Kentucky General Assembly, in its’ wisdom, some number of years ago, decided on the number of racetrack licenses that should be considered and allowed. If there are racetrack licenses available to be considered, and there are, it is the job of the Kentucky Racing Commission to consider them. All of them. And, quite honestly, it is the job of the Chairman and the Vice Chairman to ensure that is done.

The fact that you have “…informed Kentucky’s race tracks that we would not consider any applications for new race track facilities in Kentucky…” is flatly irresponsible, unprofessional, and an admission of the fact that your are totally and completely derelict in your duties.

It is not your job to inform license holders that they cannot make an application that they are fully entitled to do under the current statutes and regulations that govern horse racing in this state.

It is your job, on the other hand, to consider any and all applications. No matter who submits them. No matter when they submit them. No matter if they are a not-for-profit entity or an international corporation. No matter if the applicants are from this country or another. No matter if the applicants know you by name, or not. No matter if the applicants are Democrats or Republicans. No matter.

All you have to do is research the application. Examine the authors authenticity, and the investors economic ability to perform. Consider all the ramifications, including whether or not the citizens of those municipalities and their respective government leaders, are in favor. Discuss, in the open, whether or not it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth and the best interest of the entire Horse Industry. And, believe it or not, take a vote of the existing Commission members.

Imagine that. Allow a public hearing. Allow a vote.

It’s call democracy.

The question that truly begs to be answered here – also in public – is whether or not the Chairman and Vice Chairman even told their fellow Commission members that they had taken this position and had made this communication.

My guess is that they had not. And, that, in itself, is embarrassing, at the very least, and worthy of discussion of whether either the Chairman or the Vice Chairman have the credentials to even serve in their respective capacities.

Secondly, there is this second part of your communication, which is even more disturbing. You wrote in your release:

“Despite that communication, Churchill and Keeneland have chosen to submit an application for new race track facilities. At this time, neither of us have any plans to take any action related to this application or any other application for a new race track facility.”

Wow. Really?

How dare those two internationally-recognized tracks – who have spent zillions in the Horse Industry throughout generations of well-regarded and respected operations – act upon their rights. How dare they ask the Commission and its’ leaders to do their job, right? How dare they attempt to invest more in the Commonwealth; create more jobs; offer more tourism opportunities; and try to promote their own industry, right? After all, they were warned, right? The Chairman and the Vice-Chairman warned them that there would be consequences, right? You warned them that you would stop them, right?

Mr. Kling and Mr. Roach, you should be embarrassed. And, to be truthful, the man that gave you these jobs should ask you to either change your decision and call for a Commission hearing; or he should ask you to resign, as in immediately. Your reaction is exactly the opposite of what the citizens of this Commonwealth need and deserve from our leaders to personify.

When you accepted the Governor’s appointments, you did so with the understanding that you will uphold the laws that govern the Commonwealth of Kentucky. You agreed to conduct yourself with professionalism, without prejudice and bias. You committed to check your own personal beliefs and agenda at the door, and to conduct the state’s business with transparency, full public disclosure, and with the highest degree of fairness and objectivity.

I’m not suggesting that you have broken any laws or regulations. Or, for that matter, any rules. But you took an oath to do what is right, fair and just. By accepting the job, you promised that there would be open discussion and full disclosures. Or should have. By ignoring this application and this opportunity, you are not fulfilling that obligation to the industry; to the state; to its’ citizens; and to those that filed this application.

Instead, by your very words, you have done just the opposite. You have immediately cast a deep and wide shadow that makes people wonder – aloud now – whether you have issued these “behind closed doors” warnings and mandates before; and, if so, to whom?

What opportunities have been squashed previously? Who hasn’t submitted an application because of these threats? What chances did the Commonwealth have that we don’t all know about?

There is a deeper concern here, too. If you accept the fact that the two of you – Mr. Kling and Mr. Roach – are the only voices and votes on the Commission that truly matter — then what is to stop you from arbitrarily and capriciously denying other license applications that pertain to other issues?

If this precedence is set, what is to keep you – Mr. Kling and Mr. Roach, and others to follow – from simply denying a person the right to work on the backside; or a person from applying for a license to be a trainer or a jockey; or an individual from being a pari-mutuel clerk, a veterinarian, a farrier. After all, to paraphrase your own words, “Over the last several months, you informed them that you would not accept applications.”

Certainly, this is an issue that needs to be cleared up; cleaned up; and addressed. Publicly.  In full disclosure. In view of every citizen of this Commonwealth.

Equally as important, you owe a public explanation to the Thoroughbred Racing and Breeding industries in the Commonwealth of Kentucky — both of whom you have pledged, under oath, to oversee, regulate, and govern.

Please explain this:

Why doesn’t the Horse Industry have the right to grow; to sustain its own industry; to offer more opportunities.

Perhaps there are good reasons to deny the application of the two newly proposed racetracks. Perhaps there are pure and convincing arguments why they are not in the best interest of either the industry or the Commonwealth. Perhaps Corey Johnsen, and the other good folks at Kentucky Downs, have plenty of evidence and enough concerns to stop this proposal for Oak Grove. Perhaps both Mr. Kling and Mr. Roach are correct – for whatever reason they have – to deny the application.

But those reasons should be made public and discussed in the open. In front of the full Commission and its respective members. In view of the General Public. With the industry participants over whom you govern and rule available and able to testify and offer arguments otherwise. It is called full public disclosure and debate. The Kentucky Racing Commission should not run from it; it should be compelled to run towards it.

To do otherwise or less than, is irresponsible. To do otherwise, one could argue, is derelict of one’s duty. To do otherwise, one could maintain, is to operate in a cloak of darkness and is certainly the opposite of transparency.

We can only hope that the use of words like, “At this time…” and “…in the future…” are caveats enough to enable both Mr. Kling and Mr. Roach to pivot and pronounce that the application will, indeed, receive a full, fair, open and objective hearing.

After all, to place this matter on the agenda and have an open discussion – based on facts and not fiction — is our American way. That is our Kentucky way.

And, if it ain’t, it damn well should be.