By Zach Arnold | December 30, 2013
To read all CSAC-related articles, dating back to May 2012, CLICK HERE.
Since the departure of the execrable Che Guevara, the California State Athletic Commission has had no Chief Athletic Inspector. Andy Foster, as the current Executive Officer, has had to manage the front office affairs in Sacramento and lean heavily on lead athletic inspector Mark Relyea in Southern California to handle his business affairs. Relyea has many years of experience, both as a supervisor and administrator, with the LA County Sheriff’s Department in his role as a Lieutenant.
The history of the Chief Athletic Inspector position is meaningful. Dean Lohuis, whom many in the state of California greatly respected, was located in Southern California and was a great friend to those in the combat sports scene. He understood the sport of boxing and how to properly enforce the rules & regulations om behalf of the Athletic Commission. Unfortunately, he was replaced from the position by the powers-that-be at the Department of Consumer Affairs. They made a decision to replace Dean Lohuis with Che Guevara, a former boxing manager and athletic inspector who was involved in the Antonio Margarito hand-wrap controversy in 2009 at the Staples Center. Guevara got the job of Chief Athletic Inspector and stayed in Sacramento rather than relocating to Southern California where the majority of fighting events in the State occur.
The importance of having a competent Chief Athletic Inspector was emphasized when Consumer Affairs decided to push George Dodd out as Executive Officer. Until a new Executive Officer was hired, Guevara ran the commission. He ran it all right — he ran it in the ground, along with an interim Executive Officer named Kathi Burns who had no clue what she was doing. It was on Guevara’s match that the debacle in Oxnard took place in September of 2012. Until Andy Foster was hired by DCA, Guevara’s incompetence in training athletic inspectors properly on calculating box offices, inspecting hand wraps, and filling out event paperwork was on display for everyone to scrutinize.
After Andy Foster was hired, the position of Chief Athletic Inspector was left vacant. Instead of hiring a new Chief Athletic Inspector, an assistant Executive Officer in Sacramento (through Consumer Affairs) was hired to help out with front office paper work and bidding of state contracts. Her name is Sophia Cornejo. Her focus is on the front office administrative side of things.
However, not having a Chief Athletic Inspector in the commission pipeline remains a problem for Consumer Affairs. As demonstrated with the departure of George Dodd, not having a competent person at the helm to run the show can prove to be costly.
I bring this point up for your consideration because of a recent award ceremony at the California State Athletic Commission meeting in Sacramento on December 16th. Andy Foster, on behalf of the Athletic Commission, presented an award to Southern California-based lead athletic inspector Mark Relyea. Rather than tell you why Mr. Relyea was given the award, here is Andy Foster in his own words at the award presentation (at the one hour time mark in the embedded video clip):
“Commissioners, this is Mark Relyea. He works… really, the word is tirelessly for this commission, running multiple shows in Southern California.
“I’ve never saw anybody work as hard as an athletic inspector as Mark Relyea. I mean, we talk multiple times a day. I mean, there’s many events going on in Southern California. He keeps [me on] track of what’s going on.
“He leads our investigations down South.
“Every promoter, every major promoter I can think of asks for Mark Relyea because of his professionalism. He’s on time. He’s actually there ahead of time. He’s the last one to leave.
“And, Mark, I personally just want to thank you publicly for the job that you do for this commission. You make my job a lot easier and we work well together. We talk multiple times every day. So, thank you.”
After watching the Sacramento commission meeting and this awards presentation, I came away wondering why the front office hasn’t given Mark Relyea the full range of tools needed to make his job easier on behalf of the Athletic Commission.
If you’ve our two reports on the 12/16 CSAC meeting (here and here), you noticed that about 90% of the focus was on MMA and maybe 10% on boxing. California remains a boxing-first state. Boxing is what brings in the most revenue. However, the only person in any sort of leadership role who has the knowledge to manage boxing events in Southern California is Mark Relyea. He is the one person currently in the inner circle of leadership who the promoters can go to and voice their concerns to about regulatory affairs.
As Andy Foster noted in his own comments, Mark Relyea is the lead person for commission investigations in Southern California. He was the one who filed the investigation report against manager/chief second Rodrigo Mosquera for having a fighter use altered Reyes boxing gloves at an All-Star Boxing event on September 20th in Quiet Cannon (Montebello, California). One look at the 150-page document dump for the CSAC Sacramento meeting explicitly shows the detailed investigative work Relyea conducted to get to the bottom of the matter.
As I was watching the award presentation to Mark Relyea at the Sacramento meeting, I sat there and started asking some questions about the duties Mark Relyea is tasked with and how much work he is doing on behalf of Andy Foster. The sign of a good leader is the ability to delegate responsibility and maintain checks & balances. If I was the Executive Officer in California and I relied so heavily upon a lead athletic inspector in Southern California to handle my business affairs, wouldn’t I at least consider the idea of empowering that leader with the money and the authority to do their job to the full extent of their capabilities?
If I called my lead athletic inspector on the phone multiple times a day to handle my business affairs, put him in charge of handling all investigative matters, put him in charge of handling all the paper work and regulatory affairs on the ground at shows, and send him all across the state to attending inspector training sessions… wouldn’t it make sense to give that lead inspector the official authority to be able to make important decisions on behalf of the Athletic Commission? It is one thing to delegate authority but it is another thing to ask a lead athletic inspector to handle a significant amount of your business affairs and not give him the financial or authoritative recognition that he deserves?
What Mark Relyea is doing on behalf of the Athletic Commission right now involves the same duties that a salaried ($60,000/year) Chief Athletic Inspector would be tasked with executing. He’s not getting paid that kind of salary but most importantly he has not been officially given, by the Athletic Commission, the official legal power of a Chief Athletic Inspector. His position as lead inspector is in name only, as he is still just a part-time state employee with no more authority or pay than any other inspector. Lead inspectors may have a different internal classification at Consumer Affairs that allows them for travel reimbursement but that’s pretty much it.
Now, I don’t know if Mark Relyea has been offered the role of Chief Athletic Inspector nor do I think he has expressed any desire to become a CAI or an Assistant Executive Officer. However, Andy Foster has delegated all the job tasks of a Chief Athletic Inspector to someone who isn’t being paid like one and hasn’t been given the legal authority commensurate with his professional duties as a representative of the Athletic Commission.
Why is this important to focus on? Because Executive Officers come and go in California. It’s a volatile political job. And when an Executive Officer is removed from power, who is left to run the Athletic Commission? When George Dodd was removed, we got Che Guevara and Kathi Burns. It led to chaos on the ground. Nobody knew what was going on. If Mark Relyea is positioned as the Chief Athletic Inspector or Assistant Executive Officer in Southern California and given the authority to handle the Athletic Commission’s most important business affairs, then it would provide Consumer Affairs with a seamless transition in power should something happen in the Sacramento front office.
When it comes to Mark Relyea’s credentials, you don’t have to take my word for it. Ask Andy Foster how valuable Mark Relyea is to the Athletic Commission right now. Giving Mark Relyea an award is one thing, but treating him with respect by giving him real authority with regulatory teeth is what the current situation dictates.