Copyright WHR 2012

By Jeffrey Howard

The National Walking Horse Association (NWHA) Board of Directors met last Thursday February 16, 2012 on a conference call and unanimously voted to remove Thomas Gossard from their board of directors.  Although the vote was unanimous, Gossard was not on the call as he was ill and requested President Jason Crawhorn to change the meeting time, of which Crawhorn declined.

The details around the removal of Gossard bring about even more questions for NWHA leadership as they try to recover from the scandal which has engulfed the association since the National Horse Show last year.  Since that horse show, DQP Coordinator Martha Day has resigned, petitions have circulated for action by the board, Gossard has been dismissed from the board, board member Linda Ivins has resigned her post and several members have sent in their memberships and left the association.

Gossard contacted the Report and gave his versions of the events.  “We received an agenda for our board of directors’ call scheduled for Wednesday February 15, 2012 and on that agenda was an item labeled a code of conduct violation.  I was informed on Monday (two days before the scheduled call)  from a fellow board member that Marti Jacobsen had phoned them and told them the board had decided to remove me from the NWHA board,” said Gossard. 

“When I joined the call Jason (Crawhorn) spent about 45 minutes trying to convince the board to allow him as President to be allowed to vote on issues.  He did this because the vote on the call was seven to four to remove me and he needed one more vote to obtain the 2/3 majority required to remove me,” continued Gossard.  During the call Gossard’s phone connection was lost toward the end of the meeting and he was not able to establish a connection again. 

The next morning Crawhorn informed Gossard that he wished he could have stayed on the call but since he could not the board had called a special board call for that night (Thursday) at 8:30PM.  Gossard, who currently has bacterial pneumonia informed Crawhorn that he could not be on a call that late and asked Crawhorn to move the call earlier in the evening.  Crawhorn denied that request from Gossard.

Ivins, who originally conducted the interviews of the DQPs and Day after the National, resigned her position a couple of days after the call removing Gossard.  When asked by The Report her reasons for resignation, Ivins stated, “I have become disenchanted and disappointed with NWHA and have no reason to stay a part of NWHA any longer.  I simply want to remove myself from everything going on so I will not comment further.” 

When asked about the unanimous vote to remove Gossard, which Ivins was a part of, she answered, “I struggled with my vote, but with the evidence presented and Tom not being on the call to refute it I voted to remove him based upon that evidence.  I do think Tom should have been accommodated to be on the call to defend himself.”

The Report reached out to Crawhorn via phone and email and the following emailed statement came from Crawhon regarding the removal of Gossard and resignation of Ivins:

On 2/16/2012 the NWHA Board of Director's, after a warning for a previous infraction from the president, voted unanimously to remove Tom Gossard from his position on the Board. The Board found Mr. Gossard in violation of the Board Of Director Code of Conduct and of not acting in the best interest of NWHA.

It is with great regret that we announce Linda Ivins has resigned from the NWHA Board of Directors effective as of 2/20/2012. We thank Linda for all the hard work she has devoted to the National Walking Horse Association during her time on the Board and wish her well.

Several prominent and founding members of NWHA have left the association over the current scandal, which centers around inappropriate contact with DQPs in violation of the Horse Protection Act, targeting of certain exhibitors competing against NWHA board and executive committee members and the lack of an independent investigation into the allegations.  Many letters, petitions and angry emails have circulated and The Report recently obtained one of those letters which included the following excerpt:

I can no longer stand to associate with a group that has so abysmally failed in its original objectives and betrayed the lofty ideals once held so dear.  The events at last year’s Nationals were but the beginning of the final descent into corruption which I have witnessed with dismay.  The only two parties who stepped up and admitted they were wrong and apologized were the only two parties the board chose to punish in any way.  There was no independent investigation, in spite of the personal assurances of the president to me that there would be one.   The guiltiest of parties has yet to admit any wrongdoing at all and is set to get away scot free.   Shame on you all!

The future of NWHA is very much in peril as the actions of the past six months have left a black eye on the association.  With the lack of transparency and willingness to talk publicly by the leadership, it may go quietly.