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« | Home | »

Sacramento’s bloodsucking bean counters screwing over broke fighters

By Zach Arnold | October 9, 2012

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Video streaming by Ustream

Monday’s California State Athletic Commission hearing, streamed live online on UStream, was a perfect representation of everything we’ve written about the Department of Consumer Affairs over the last five months. The meeting was illustrative of the on-going civil war between the Commission body and Sacramento. It was also, at times, a horribly depressing meeting to watch if you understand the rules and regulations that govern combat sports in the state.

Watch the 8 minute video clip embedded in this article. Listen to the tone from Kathi Burns, a DCA lifer who is getting out of dodge by going to the California Highway Patrol because she wanted out of CSAC in a hurry.

It is one thing for me to write long articles explaining, at times in lengthy detail, just what is happening in Sacramento and how Denise Brown & company in DCA management are doing their best to destroy combat sports in the state. It’s another thing, however, for you as a reader to be able to watch these people in action on video. Once you see how these people operate and behave, the points we’ve made in our previous articles are hammered home with cold reality.

I will address Che Guevara’s performance at another date. DCA’s golden boy, who really is in charge of the front office for CSAC, looked as slimy and incompetent as those in the business know him to be. Just like he did in the Antonio Margarito hearing three years ago, he likely perjured himself again yesterday during the drug testing appeal hearing for fighter Rafael Feijao. And right by his side, while Che was making an ass out of himself yesterday was Karen Chappelle, the shady lawyer from the Attorney General’s office who got busted by a judge for fraud over the Robert Guerrero CSAC arbitration hearing. She was working alongside Che for the Margarito hearing, too. Chappelle looked awful at Monday’s hearing. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person, either. Josh Gross of ESPN did an excellent job writing a recap of Monday’s proceedings and made Che look like the fool that he is.

However, the biggest symbol of what’s wrong with the Department of Consumer Affairs is Kathi Burns.

Burns, a Sacramento lifer who has floated from job to job under the DCA umbrella, was appointed to the front office by DCA after George Dodd resigned. Her job was simply to be a stooge for Consumer Affairs and to be a bean counter. Whether the means used by Burns were legal or illegal, she was going to focus solely on budget affairs. With no desire or interest in combat sports, Burns was the perfect representation of how DCA views combat sports. They simply assume that you can throw a bureaucrat into an industry as complicated as the fight business and that everything would run smoothly. What DCA found out is that throwing someone into the fire of the fight industry without any sort of knowledge or experience never works. I’ve seen far smarter individuals lose their ass in combat sports. There’s no manual you can pick up and learn in terms of how the industry operates. You have to live it on a daily basis to understand what to do and what not to do.

In the eyes of DCA bureaucrats like Burns, everyone is disposable. Everyone is simply a number. The fans are rubes. The inspectors are idiots. The promoters owe them a debt of gratitude. The fighters simply come and go.

This attitude was on full display when Burns talked about a recent “legal opinion” memo from CalHR that was given to DCA. The legal opinion claimed that inspectors no longer were obligated to travel hours or time-and-a-half overtime wages. As we demonstrated in our article last week on the Fair Labor Standards Act, the legal opinion holds no water because state law that goes above-and-beyond what federal law (FLSA) requires is what takes precedence in terms of enforcement of the labor code. In other words, the inspectors are entitled to having travel hours paid for and state workers are entitled to time-and-a-half wages.

The violation of state labor law leaves DCA & CSAC open to civil action in court. This sets the table for an inspector or inspectors to use the 2004 Private Attorney General Act, which is law that allows a citizen to go to a judge and have a judge issue a court order telling an employer to stop their illegal behavior and comply with the law.

However, none of the inspectors have filed such a lawsuit yet. None of the inspectors have mounted any sort of challenge to Burns and DCA. The inspectors are mad but won’t use the law that’s on their side. They think they’re playing a game of chicken but all they are doing is acting like a chicken. Furthermore, no inspectors appeared at yesterday’s commission meeting in Los Angeles to stand up and voice opposition against the legal opinion. Therefore, Kathi Burns is more than happy to tout the new legal opinion and assume that the inspectors are OK with it. Whether she’s telling the truth or not, it doesn’t matter. The only way DCA responds to anyone is when someone brings a lawyer into the conversation.

Which is exactly what a fighter who fought on the ill-fated Oxnard, California show a few weeks ago had to do.

Crystal Morales was one of the many boxers who got stiffed by deadbeat promoter Raul Orozco and his business associate Armando Renteria. We detailed that story in painstaking fashion in our Oxnard event report. The deadbeat promoter and his lackey are repeat offenders when it comes to bouncing checks to fighters and commission officials. So, Che Guevara allegedly came up with a brilliant idea: let the deadbeats run a third show… as long as they paid commission officials by cashier’s checks (or cash). No protection for the fighters. No suspension of the promoter’s license. Nothing.

So, as anyone with an IQ higher than 20 could have saw this coming, the deadbeats acted like deadbeats always do and canceled a show when the ticket sales were in the tank. On top of that, the lackey (Armando Renteria) claims to be the manager of a fighter who is fighting on the card his buddy was promoting. His buddy Raul didn’t show up at the weigh-ins the day before to sign the bout contacts and Armando reportedly signed them instead. At Monday’s commission hearing, it was made clear that Raul was the one with the promoter’s license and not Armando — even though Armando fancies himself in the media as a promoter. So, by allowing Armando to sign the bout contracts instead of Raul, it made the state of California now legally liable as a third party to the deals.

Pay up, deadbeats.

Crystal was not paid the money she was promised on the bout contract. The other fighters on the card weren’t paid, either. Some of them came from out of state to fight on the show. This situation should have never happened in the first place, thanks to Che Guevara. However, it happened. Since it happened, the onus is on the front office to use an ounce of common sense and do their jobs.

1. Suspend the license of Raul Orozco.
2. Give the $50k bondholder information to the fighters to hit the bond.

These two actions, simple in nature, would have taken approximately 15 minutes to execute. This is kindergarten-level stuff we’re talking about here. Ice out Orozco’s promoter license and let the fighters do what they have to do in order to get paid the money they were owed.

However, this is the Department of Consumer Affairs we’re talking about here and they managed to screw up an easy situation and turned it into a horrific situation for the victims involved in the matter.

Burns, as interim E.O, never took any action against Orozco. She didn’t suspend the license. When it came time to give out the bondholder information to Crystal Morales’ attorney, Farzad Tabatabai, the office reportedly stalled. After buying some time in order to try to figure out what to do, Burns reportedly offered 50% plus travel expenses. Furthermore, and more insultingly, she ordered that the front office was the one in charge of hitting the bond and not the fighters. They were the ones in control here, you see. A power trip over a matter where no power trip was needed or justified.

These series of events led us to Monday’s CSAC hearing in Los Angeles where Tabatabai showed up and told the commission body what DCA never bothered to tell them about the debacle in Oxnard. The commissioners were receptive to what they were hearing, unlike Consumer Affairs.

After Tabatabai spoke in the earlier portion of the hearing, he ended up seeing the rest of the hearing like we all did on UStream.

“I am pleased at how receptive the Commission as a body was to the plight of the fighters who did not get paid,” Tabatabai remarked after we requested a comment from him on how his appearance at the meeting went. “They took an important step by rejecting the front office and setting the issue of fighter pay on their agenda for the next meeting. I am especially appreciative of Commissioner Lemons for standing up to get these fighters paid and making sure this doesn’t happen again. I hope the Commission continues down this right path and gets the fighters their fees and the fans get their refunds.

“As for the Interim Executive Officer’s comment, if she feels my statement to the Commission was not “the whole story,” I invite her to explain on record why the fighters should be paid only 50% of their purses when CSAC employees received 100%, especially when the law is very clear that the fighters and fans should be paid before CSAC. I also invite her to explain why she and/or her staff tried to make the decision to only pay the fighters 50% when the law requires the Commission as a body to make the decision.”

Crystal Morales also issued a brief comment after Monday’s hearing.

“I know you know Armando (Renteria) has not paid me. … I depended on the money he was going to give me but know cause of his lack of word I have to get a part-time job to pay for my daughter’s doctor bills and have to stop training for a little while. I’m very bummed out cause if I had that money, there would not be any need for me to get a part-time job at all”

Kathi Burns, DCA management (Denise Brown & Awet Kidane), and DCA legal (Doreathea Johnson, Michael Santiago) could have done the right thing here to resolve this situation. It would have taken 15 minutes of their time. Instead, they’ve inflicted pain and suffering upon fighters who were already victimized in the first place. The power was in the hands of the front office to do the right thing and they didn’t.

Let this be a lesson to any fighter who is active in California now.

At the end of the Monday CSAC meeting in Los Angeles, the departing Burns displayed an execrably flippant & petulant attitude to the commission body at the table. Disdain was dripping from her pores.

“As far as future agenda items, just like all the standard items we, uh… need to put on, I’ll phrase it different at the agenda but a topic so we can address um… payments to fighters, uh, when a show is canceled due to a promoter failing to meet their obligations.”

This wasn’t an issue of a promoter failing his obligations for one show. This promoter was a serial deadbeat offender that the front office allowed to operate without any sort of punishment. Oxnard was not a one-off incident. It was the culmination of illegal behavior that the front office, led by Che Guevara, allowed to fester throughout the year.

Commissioner VanBuren Ross Lemons curtly responded to Burns after the start of her last remarks.

“Well, actually we need to discipline this promoter.”

Burns was not pleased. She started getting whiny & condescending.

“We’ll talk about the situation, you know… but we need… if you want to handle this different than you’ve been handling it in the past, which is delegation to the Executive Officer and staff, then… we’ve probably should talk about… I mean, you guys asked me to put this on the agenda for the next meeting, so I was just following through…”

What the oblivious Burns didn’t get is the irony of her predicament. She was the one who had the power to suspend Raul Orozco’s license and didn’t. She was the one who could have simply turned over the $50,000 bondholder information to the fighters and let them hit the bond to be paid back the money they were owed. If it wasn’t for Farzad Tabatabai going in front of the commission body and telling them about the job that Kathi Burns didn’t do, Oxnard would have been swept under the rug.

Kathi’s response to not suspending or punishing Raul Orozco?

“This is a tidbit — the man only holds a temporary license. You guys are as good as gold. Heheheheh. So…”

For Kathi Burns, her viewpoint is never about protecting people. It’s about numbers on a piece of paper. Everyone is a number to her. The job to her is about unwarranted power and ego trips. It’s about pulling rank and telling people what to do, even if it’s against the law. There was no better illustration of this than the departing Burns commenting on CSAC’s next meeting happening on December 3rd and the debate as to whether or not it should happen in Sacramento or Los Angeles.

“Well, you have to think about money, but it’s your call…”

Questions were asked as to where it would cost more money to hold a meeting at.

“Well, it’s just staff… it’s just staff has to get down here and that’s why it’s a little bit more expensive. And the other thing, and this will be on the next agenda but you’re going to have to talk about the frequency of your meetings as far as your budget. Having a meeting every other month is going to… overspend.”

Chairman John Frierson and other members of the commission body expressed their desire to hold a meeting every other month. Realistically, they should have been holding meetings every 45 days. In the world of Kathi Burns and Consumer Affairs, the Commission body shouldn’t even bother showing up — especially if they have to approve fighter licenses or mete out punishment or hear appeals for disciplinary actions and respond to the requests.

“Right, but you also… you have to respond because you’re supposed to but there’s no penalty. I mean, you don’t go to jail if we can meet within the exact time. But… you’re…

“Well, there’s fair and then there’s the amount of money you have in your budget to spend and doing a meeting every other month is going to take you well beyond your amount of money and so you’re going to have to strategize.”

“Right now, it’s every other month. But…”

A commissioner asked her if there was a statute about a minimum number of commission meetings required.

“There isn’t (a requirement by statute) but I have five meetings built into your budget right now and you’ve already done three of them, so technically you only have two more months this fiscal year but I think you can eek out a third. But that’s going to have to be considered… which you can do in December.”

It’s not the commission body’s fault that Consumer Affairs can’t manage a budget. It’s not their fault that DCA can’t and won’t follow the rules & regulations. It’s not their fault that DCA legal can’t and won’t follow state labor law. Kathi Burns was already acting as if the commission was sunset and that all of the power should unilaterally belong to Sacramento. What she didn’t get and what the debacle in Oxnard has proved is that when DCA has the power to do the right thing and make the right call, they never make the right decision. They always make the wrong decision or no decision at all, no matter how painless making the right decision actually is.

A new Executive Officer isn’t going to change this equation. Che Guevara holds the cards because he is DCA’s man.

Governor Jerry Brown’s Department of Consumer Affairs doesn’t care about the people they’re victimizing. The video doesn’t lie. The public knows the real story now.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

One Response to “Sacramento’s bloodsucking bean counters screwing over broke fighters”

  1. Chromium says:

    From the transcript, Kathi Burns clearly does not know what her fucking job is, and the fighters and even state inspectors are getting the shaft because of clueless and/or spineless commissioners.

    This stuff is really esoteric though, so maybe boiling it down a bit for folks who don’t keep up with this to better understand the significance of it might help. The CSAC is what, the second most important State Athletic Commission in all of combat sports? Third maybe? That’s pretty crazy how incompetent the are at a fundamental level.

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