Everybody loses in this fight
• State boxing agency director is in hot water over botched Pendleton card
It's only $1,200, but Chauncy Welliver could use it.
'Anybody could use $1,200. That's a fun weekend,' says Welliver, a heavyweight boxer from Spokane who competed as part of an ill-fated card in October at the Pendleton Convention Center. 'I've pretty much wrote it off. If I get it, awesome. If I don't, hey, I fought. It's part of boxing. I should have expected it.'
Not getting paid É just part of boxing? Normally, it's not, but for months that was the case for most of the 12 boxers who competed in Pendleton Ñ and for the officials who ran the event and still have not been paid.
It is possibly the most egregious failing in the history of the Oregon Boxing and Wrestling Commission and in the tenure of its executive director, Jim Cassidy,who is now under investigation by the state police.
'Worst, by far,' says Portland matchmaker Bob Oleson, who has 50 years in boxing. 'I've never seen it where that much money has been involved and nobody got paid.'
'My understanding is it's the first time it's happened,' adds Capt. Bob Sundstrom, head of the Oregon State Police Gaming Enforcement Division.
As of this week, all the Pendleton boxers except Welliver have been paid, Oleson says. But most of them had to wait months because the promoters, Beve Dowlen and Harry Vested, both of Laguna Beach, Calif., couldn't deliver on time. The checks they gave to the fighters and others, about 40 in all, bounced.
The promoters claim the city of Pendleton is at fault for what Vested calls lax security and cash handling. He says he plans 'major litigation.'
The event drew only an estimated 700 people, 200 of them holding complimentary tickets, according to Pat Kennedy, convention center executive administrator.
That was about half of what the promoters predicted and needed to break even. 'They misjudged the interest in this area,' he says.
And Cassidy, by allowing the promoters to post only $10,000 in surety bonds, as well as letting slide many state statutes and rules set in place to prevent such botched events, put himself squarely in the middle of the mess.
State police spokesman Lt. Glenn Chastain says no details will be released about the Cassidy probe.
Sundstrom, who became director of the Gaming Enforcement Division in November, says neither the state nor Umatilla County will press criminal charges.
The Cassidy investigation will be completed in about three weeks, he says.
The state broke the $10,000 bond Jan. 21, took its 6 percent for ticket sales (about $630) and paid some of the fighters, Sundstrom says. Two other fighters allegedly got paid from the cash till in Pendleton the night of the fight, and another cashed a check from the promoters at an out-of-state check-cashing establishment.
Welliver and some of the fight officials have not been paid.
Cassidy, a bar owner in Portland, referee and boxing fan hired in 1999 with the directive to build the boxing business, would not comment on the Pendleton problem.
'I feel comfortable about this office, but it's an ongoing investigation,' he says.
Chastain says that if he's found responsible, Cassidy could get anything from a reprimand to termination. Any penalty would be another blow to an already struggling boxing business in Oregon.
Dowlen and Vested impressed everyone they met last year. They were big-money talkers. Vested says he used to work with Don King; Dowlen had worked with Disney. Dowlen appeared to have the money, and Vested ran the show. Kennedy says, 'I never could tell what they did for a living.'
'I put my B.S. meter on alert, and they fooled me,' says Portland trainer Fred Ryan, whose fighter, Curtis Frost, was paid later from the bond money. 'We all wanted to see boxing go up in Pendleton.'
Cassidy purportedly conducted background checks and licensed Dowlen and Vested. Says Sam DiTusa, a Seattle police officer and trainer whose boxer, Mike Sams, was paid later from the bond: 'They supposedly had a good financial portfolio.'
Oleson, the matchmaker, received his $1,500 fee upfront Ñ but hasn't received another $700 owed to him.
The promoters spent exorbitantly, Oleson says.
The fights went off. But everybody noticed the 3,000-seat convention center wasn't sold out.
'As time got up to the first bell, heck, there weren't many people there,' Oleson says. 'Lot different than what they said it would be.'
Kennedy has been in charge of the Pendleton Convention Center for nine years, putting on events including Class 2A state high school basketball tournaments, so he is certain that only about 700 people sat and watched the boxing card. He says he has videotape of the event.
Only 500 tickets were sold for $15 apiece (total $7,500), including pre-event sales, and Dowlen gave away about 200, Kennedy says.
Vested estimates that about 1,600 people showed up. If most had paid, 'it would have covered everything easily,' he says.
He blames the city of Pendleton for not having state-licensed ticket takers and security personnel guarding entrances, and says some people walked off with money.
'There's negligence on the city's part for several things that happened,' Vested says. 'We're in the process of suing the city of Pendleton.'
He adds, 'Jim Cassidy is fully aware of everything.'
Kennedy denies that spectators got in for free through back doors. 'He's talking 500 to 600 people. Impossible,' he says, noting that they could have sneaked in through only three entrances: one where a cook was grilling hamburgers, another where boxers and officials entered, and a third where people were smoking.
'And that whole back area is fenced,' Kennedy says.
City pleads ignorance
Kennedy says the ticket takers and security force were volunteers and not licensed, which is required under Oregon statute, but 'we didn't see the list (of requirements) until Cassidy left' Pendleton.
'We would have been glad to live by them,' Kennedy says.
Kennedy says he waived the $1,000 convention center and $600 ring rental fees and had additional lights installed for free. 'We're so remote, I do whatever I can to help promoters (of events) save money,' he says.
Kennedy also says convention center officials could not determine an accurate cash take because he and others saw Dowlen take money out of the cash till to pay two fighters and other expenses.
'I know what came into the booth,' Kennedy says, noting that his wife and secretary sold tickets.
Most fighters were given checks signed by Dowlen and Vested, not cashier's checks, which is the custom at matches. Welliver says he saw his check on a table, looked away, then glanced back and it was gone.
'They said they would write me another one,' says Welliver, who fought with a hernia and had an operation two days later.
Vested says the event cost about $23,000. Cassidy first tried to get the promoters to pay bills, then in late November the bonding company, American Contractors Indemnity Co., received the request for the $10,000 to be released to the Oregon commission. The bond money was distributed in January.
The bonding company will pursue recouping its money from Vested and Dowlen, going through collection agencies and/or courts, and will attach assets, if necessary, says claims agent Brian Sauls.
'Now we're chasing them,' he says.
Bonds may go up
Vested says his case has been handed off to Heartland Insurance of Pendleton, from which he says he and Dowlen took out a $1 million policy to cover liabilities, including medical insurance.
Says Sauls: 'I don't know of any policy that covers bounced checks.'
Heartland claims agent Flossie Keeler would not comment, other to say 'it's being handled.' It could not be independently verified whether Vested and Dowlen had taken out adequate medical insurance, the required minimum $20,000 for injuries or $100,000 for death per person.
There are questions that Cassidy would not answer and Capt. Sundstrom said he could not, pending the investigation:
nWhy did Cassidy require only a $10,000 bond, when the costs were going to be so much higher? Sundstrom says the state's gaming division has revisited bond requirements, which Cassidy determines with each promoter, and will ask for much higher bonds in the future. But, at least the bond covered the taxes owed, he says.
'I can't say everything will be $30,000 or $20,000. It depends on the show,' Sundstrom says.
• Why was the city of Pendleton not notified about needing security and ticket takers and other personnel to be licensed before the event? It 'maybe' makes the state liable for losses, rather than the city, Sundstrom acknowledges. He said he would have state attorneys look into it.
• Why were the customary cashier's checks not in hand, ready for the fighters? Before Cassidy joined the Boxing and Wrestling Commission, the agency required them, but not anymore.
'You put the money up and bite the bullet if it 'rains out,' ' trainer Ryan says.
Cassidy gets much of the blame, trainer DiTusa says. 'When you have a commission, they're supposed to be overseeing the welfare of these kids,' he says. 'It was 100 days before (some of) these kids got paid. Cassidy was trying to be a nice guy to the promoters, and it backfired on him. He took a gamble on them, and he lost.'