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Investigation Clears Racing Commission Chair

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) —  The former chair of the Minnesota Racing Commission has been cleared of allegations that he harassed and discriminated against a female employee because of her gender, according to an investigative report provided Wednesday to The Associated Press.

The report, dated March 1, found that Jesse Overton treated all employees the same, and did not single out the woman due to her gender. The name of the woman who lodged the complaint has been redacted from the report.

Overton was reappointed to the Racing Commission this week, but was replaced as chairman by attorney Ralph Strangis, who led the commission in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Gov. Mark Dayton was not apprised of the report's findings prior to his decision, spokesman Bob Hume said. Officials had confirmed that Overton was being investigated, but the nature of the probe was not revealed.

According to the investigative report, the woman who raised the allegations had been placed on paid administrative leave from September to January, due to a separate investigation of misconduct. The woman claimed Overton had been treating her unfairly over the years, culminating with her being placed on leave.

The report found Overton has a different management style when compared with prior chairmen, which may have "exacerbated his personality conflict" with her, but he did not single out the woman or interfere with her ability to do her job.

The Racing Commission oversees Minnesota's two horse racing tracks, which also are home to poker and card game clubs. By ensuring racing integrity, the commission's goal is to stimulate the state's equine industry and make it attractive for out-of-state breeders to run their horses here.

The two horse tracks attracted a combined $54 million in betting on live and simulcast races in 2012. Revenue from the card clubs — a slice of which is used to augment racing purses — neared $50 million last year at the two facilities, according to the commission's annual report.

Overton has been on the commission for four years, the last couple as its chairman.

Racing Commission members don't earn a state salary but can claim a $55 allowance for each day they spend working on board business.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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