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California fights on schedule despite censure of commission chief

June 27, 2012|By Lance Pugmire and Patrick McGreevy
  • Andre Ward gestures during a weigh-in in Oakland.
Andre Ward gestures during a weigh-in in Oakland. (Paul Sakuma / Associated…)

Professional boxing and mixed martial arts fights will continue in California, but the regulatory body that oversees the matches is on wobbly financial footing.

The California State Athletic Commission has voted to censure its executive officer, George Dodd, as officials warn that the agency is insolvent because of excessive spending. 

The commission took the disciplinary action during a closed session and said afterward in a statement that it was censuring Dodd “for not adequately informing the commission about the insolvency of the Athletic Commission fund.” 

At the same meeting Tuesday, the panel received a report from the budget officer for the Department of Consumer Affairs warning of dire circumstances for the agency unless there is a reorganization. 

“The … commission's fund … cannot reach solvency with its current operating structure," Taylor Schick wrote in a memo to state officials.

The commission is supposed to be financially self-supporting, generating its own revenue in part through the licensing of participants in the boxing industry. 

“To maintain solvency, the Commission must keep its fund balance positive,” Schick wrote. “In other words, it must spend less money than it collects in revenue. This has not historically happened.” 

Yet, Melissa Figueroa, a spokeswoman for the State and Consumer Affairs Agency that oversees the athletic commission, said, “As of now, there’s no impact to the fights that are scheduled.” 

The most significant upcoming bouts in California are a July 7 122-pound boxing title unification fight pitting Northern California’s Nonito Donaire against Jeffrey Mathebula at Home Depot Center in Carson, an August Ultimate Fighting Championship card at Staples Center, and a Sept. 8 super-middleweight title boxing bout in Oakland between Andre Ward and Chad Dawson. 

“I know there are problems in the commission, but nobody from the commission has expressed any concerns about my fight,” said veteran boxing promoter Bob Arum, who’s staging Donaire-Mathebula.

 In his memo, Schick said the commission started this fiscal year with a reserve, but this month will end the year $35,000 in the hole; the deficit is expected to reach $700,000 next year.

 “A fund simply cannot go into a negative balance,” Schick wrote. “That is the equivalent of an individual writing a check when there is no money in their checking account and no money forthcoming.”

Last month, Dodd was put on notice by the head of the Department of Consumer Affairs, who wrote to him: “You are not only expressly forbidden from making any expenditures in excess of the Commission's appropriations but are personally liable for any debt in excess of the appropriation.”

The commission signaled that it had considered removing Dodd. Its agenda included an item titled “Process for Selection of New Executive Officer,” but said that matter would only be taken up “if necessary.” 

The action was taken a day after Gov. Jerry Brown appointed former legislative aide Dean Grafilo to the commission. 

Figueroa of the State and Consumer Services Agency said Dodd has been placed under the supervision of veteran athletic commissioner John Frierson and commissioner Eugene Hernandez and will be required to provide them a weekly update on the commission fund.

Dodd is also under orders to provide by August a plan to address the shortfall to supervisory agency the Department of Consumer Affairs for the 2012-13 year. Dodd will further be subjected to an evaluation within three months that will determine his future in the position, Figueroa said.

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com

Twitter.com/latimespugmire

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