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State boxing panel has a poor record

The California State Athletic Commission has a history of poor record-keeping, faulty revenue collection and a harassment claim.

September 18, 2009|Michael Rothfeld

SACRAMENTO — The California State Athletic Commission, one of many consumer-protection boards, is responsible for ensuring the safety of athletes in boxing and mixed martial arts by licensing them and event promoters, among other tasks.

But records from the state and the boxing industry reveal a pattern of poor performance by a board that has had trouble following its own rules.

An internal audit in late 2003, around the time Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took office, found sloppy record-keeping, inaccurate revenue collection, outdated technology and staffing shortages. Such problems prompted state lawmakers to let the commission's authority lapse for six months in 2006 before it was launched again in 2007.

Since then the situation has not improved, follow-up state audits show.

Armando Garcia, the executive officer brought in to turn the commission around, was ousted late last year after a sexual harassment complaint by a subordinate. He has not been permanently replaced.

Garcia wrote the subordinate numerous e-mails, obtained by The Times under California's public records law, which he signed with messages such as "Loving you" in English and Spanish. In April, the panel and its parent agency, the state Department of Consumer Affairs, settled the complaint for $75,000.

The commission acknowledged a regulatory failure in March after a mixed martial arts fighter was allowed to compete even though he had hepatitis C and didn't have the required HIV test result on file.

Records from a national registry, Fight Fax, indicate that others have been permitted to compete this year while on suspension -- pending, for instance, medical tests -- or without an identification card required under federal law.

Dave Thornton, the commission's acting executive officer, said that in most cases, the agency had not updated the registry for months but the fighters were appropriately allowed to compete; in two cases, they competed while on suspension. Thornton said the agency was working to address its "occasional" regulatory errors and long-standing administrative problems. "I think we've made quite a bit of progress," he said. "It's gone on for a while, so we do need some time to make it right."

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michael.rothfeld@latimes.com

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