ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The New Mexico State Fair starts in a month, and young equestrian competitors are reluctant to sign up for some of the fair’s signature events. That’s because the state has dragged its feet in paying the winners of past horse competitions.
“Where’s the trust in a large organization, and what does this teach our children about who do you trust in paying your money out?” said Cheryl Pozzi, whose 18-year-old daughter participates in the State Fair at Expo New Mexico.
Rachel Pozzi is one of the most decorated equestrian competitors in New Mexico.
“Last year was a really good year for me,” Rachel Pozzi said. “I won four of the horse shows at New Mexico State Fair.”
The teenager said the checks for the winnings usually come within two months. Some are even paid on the day of the event, she said.
“The money you win at one show goes and pays for the next show and, in some cases, it pays for your gas to get home,” Rachel Pozzi said.
But that didn’t happen after the 2013 State Fair. In fact, it has taken almost a year for Rachel Pozzi to get paid. And she wasn’t alone.
Expo New Mexico spokeswoman Erin Kinnard Thompson told KRQE News 13 that 89 of the 200 winners’ checks from last year’s fair were flawed.
Rachel Pozzi says the fair owed her about $800 for her winnings.
“I’ve received probably six checks, none of them adding up to the amounts that they should,” Rachel Pozzi said.
Competitors said the paperwork for the horse shows was confusing and was unclear what payout was for which competition.
“Random checks here and there,” said Tracey Kitts, whose 13-year-old son, Trent, competed in the State Fair. “We got some in January, we got some in March, we got some in April, we got some in July…They’re slow. Their organization is slow; their payments are slow.”
Expo’s General Manager, Dan Mourning, said a contractor used poor accounting practices, issuing the wrong amounts for horse shows. Mourning said he put a stop to the payments in November until staff could go through all 1,800 horse entrants’ paperwork to confirm correct payment. It took nearly a year to completely clean up the books.
“It was a meticulous undertaking, a very arduous task, and it’s rotten that it took this long,” Mourning said. “But it got done…I don’t want these people getting inaccurate checks.”
For the mishap, Expo New Mexico offered last year’s participants free horse classes, an apology and a promise that this won’t happen again.
Mourning said a new contractor was hired to manage the horse shows and cut the checks for this year’s fair.
“The good thing is, we fixed it,” Mourning said.
Competitors hope that’s true.
“I wish they would get a hold of it, it’s not that hard to do,” Tracey Kitts said.
Competitors and their parents are still reluctant to enter this year’s horse shows.
“We’ll enter the fair again,” Tracey Kitts said. “I hate to take that stance because part of me says you know if they’re going to treat you bad, you really shouldn’t go back.”