Topeka The state Racing Commission waffled for a moment Friday, then reaffirmed an earlier decision to return a $250,000 deposit to a Wichita company that surrendered its license to build a southeast Kansas racetrack.
Members toyed with the idea of reconsidering last week's action to return the deposit to Sunflower Racing Inc., hoping they could free themselves from a lawsuit filed Monday by Atty. Gen. Robert Stephan. Stephan contends the commission cannot legally return the deposit.
The commission voted 3-1 to reconsider the action. However, members wandered into a swamp of sticky philosophical, legal and procedural questions that made them reconsider their possible reconsideration. The commission ended up voting 4-1 to reaffirm last week's decision.
THE NET result was that the commission spent about two hours hashing over the decision and ended up in the same place it started.
``I think it's just wise to consider everything and not say he (Stephan) has thrown down the gauntlet and we'll pick it up and run with it,''' said Commissioner Kay Arvin of Wichita. ``I just wish the court would decide and we wouldn't have to have the battle.''
Sunflower held a license to build a $12 million pari-mutuel dog track south of Pittsburg from September 1988 until Oct. 13. It was unable to find financing suitable to the commission.
On Oct. 13, Sunflower representatives suggested that the commission could legally ask Sunflower to return its license, without implying that it had failed to meet the terms of its license, and return the deposit, put up when Sunflower applied. The commission agreed and took the necessary actions.
HOWEVER, Stephan contends the law is simple: If a track is not built, a deposit cannot be returned. He took the case to the state Supreme Court, which blocked payment of the deposit at least until the case is resolved.
``I don't think we did a darn thing wrong last time,'' said Commissioner Bert Cantwell of Kansas City, Kan. ``We've got better things to do than get involved in this circus.''
Commissioner Alfred Schroeder of Madison appeared ready for the fight.
``I think we should stick by our guns,'' he said.
What followed was a debate over what might happen if the commission attempted to undo its action and ask a court to interpret the law. Commissioners also found themselves in a parliamentary thicket, trying to decide whether the act of voting to reconsider nullified a previous action or not.
Adding to their problems was Stephan's appointment, as required by law, of two assistant attorneys general as counsel for the commission. Because of Stephan's position, they could not advise the commission, leaving the panel without a lawyer.
``Here we are, floundering around,'' Mrs. Arvin said. ``Why don't we just get ourselves an attorney and go from there?''