De­po­si­tions shed light on horse show law­suit

Lawyer for ousted wi­dow claims Devon Horse Show of­fi­cials’ de­po­si­tions help her case

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Linda Stein lstein@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @lstein­re­porter on Twit­ter

DEVON >> A lawyer for a 62-year-old wi­dow who is su­ing the Devon Horse Show af­ter be­ing ousted from her sky­box, claims that de­po­si­tions from the horse show pres­i­dent and board chair­man sup­port his client’s case.

Tr­ish Hue­ber, of Penn Val­ley, paid $20,000 for the on­go­ing use of the 1B sky­box in April 2012. She also paid $1,800 an­nu­ally in main­te­nance fees to the horse show. How­ever, this year af­ter she re­sponded to a let­ter that re­quested the main­te­nance fee, her check for the 2016 main­te­nance fee was re­turned and show of­fi­cials told Hue­ber that she had vi­o­lated rules and no longer had the use of the box, the suit said. Horse show of­fi­cials also con­tended that the $20,000 she paid in 2012 was a char­i­ta­ble dona­tion, rather than for the pur­chase of the sky­box.

Af­ter Hue­ber’s lawyer, Cary McClain, sent a let­ter re­gard­ing the sky­box re­quest­ing proof that there had not been an agree­ment or a tax re­turn show­ing the char­i­ta­ble con­tri­bu­tion, show of­fi­cials also re­moved Hue­ber from her po­si­tion as vice pres­i­dent of the Hospi­tal­ity Com­mit­tee, a com­mit­tee that she had served on for 29 years. Al­though Com­mon Pleas Judge Ronald Na­gle is­sued an or­der on June 2 to per­mit Hue­ber to use the sky­box for the re­main­ing days of the horse show this year,

Show of­fi­cials con­tended that the $20,000 she paid was a char­i­ta­ble dona­tion, rather than for the pur­chase of the sky­box.

the case re­mains pend­ing and is due for an ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ing on Dec. 2.

Horse show of­fi­cials claim that Hue­ber broke rules by ac­cept­ing money from other peo­ple to sit in her box, some­thing McClain said is com­mon prac­tice. Mean­while, horse show Pres­i­dent Richard O’Don­nell and Chair­man Wayne Grafton both gave de­po­si­tions in the mat­ter in Septem­ber.

In his de­po­si­tion, O’Don­nell said that he and Grafton de­cided to re­move Hue­ber and that the is­sue never came be­fore the horse show board, McClain said. O’Don­nell said that he learned about al­le­ga­tions that Hue­ber was al­legedly sell­ing tick­ets to her box through Grafton and called her to warn her against that ac­tiv­ity in 2015. O’Don­nell also con­firmed that boxes are some­times handed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion, McClain said.

In his de­po­si­tion Grafton said that there were is­sues with Hue­ber other than seek­ing re­im­burse­ment for seats in her box. He said that he was twice ap­proached by an ac­quain­tance re­gard­ing Hue­ber. That man and his wife first com­plained about an in­crease in the an­nual box fee since O’Don­nell and Grafton took the reins of the horse show in De­cem­ber 2014. How­ever, Grafton checked into their com­plaint and found that they did not have a box. When he called him about it, he learned that the cou­ple was pay­ing Hue­ber to sit in her box. O’Don­nell then called Hue­ber and warned her that there were rules against scalp­ing un­used seats. Those tick­ets are sup­posed to be do­nated back to the horse show, un­der the rules.

Later, at the Palm Beach Polo & Coun­try Club, that ac­quain­tance again spoke to Grafton telling him that he had a chance to buy Hue­ber’s box for $25,000, ac­cord­ing to McClain. Grafton told the man that Hue­ber did not own the box and sug­gested that he ask her to show him her deed, McClain said.

How­ever, a horse show doc­u­ment men­tions “own­er­ship of the boxes,” McClain said. And a horse show em­ployee took a mes­sage from Hue­ber and re­ferred to her as a “sky­box owner” but later crossed it out and wrote in “ten­ant.” She had called to re­quest to ex­change the sky­box to a box that was lower in the stands.

And Grafton ad­mit­ted that peo­ple com­monly say “my box” when re­fer­ring to a box at the horse show that they lease, just like peo­ple re­fer to cars that they lease as their car, said McClain.

In his de­po­si­tion, Grafton said that he has the right to re­move peo­ple that he deems dis­rup­tive from their boxes, ac­cord­ing to McClain. He said that Hue­ber was in­sis­tent about the idea that she owned the sky­box and gave “fraud­u­lent in­for­ma­tion” to oth­ers. McClain said that the new lead­er­ship of the horse show wanted to re­sell the sky­box Hue­ber paid $20,000 for in 2012 and that Grafton said in his de­po­si­tion that he’s had of­fers of $50,000 for the use of a horse show box.

In her own de­po­si­tion, Hue­ber agreed that she had “reg­u­lars,” who sat in her box and re­im­bursed her for her costs. How­ever, she was never paid more than $30 or face value for a ticket and never scalped tick­ets, said McClain.

“Her friends con­trib­uted vol­un­tar­ily,” he said. Also, Hue­ber said that she was ap­proached about sell­ing her box and checked with horse show of­fi­cials about it.

“They said ‘no,’ so she didn’t,” said McClain. “They had no good rea­son to throw her out. The only rea­son is they want to make more money off the box. If they don’t like you, they’re go­ing to make your life mis­er­able at Devon and you will ei­ther leave or they will re­move you.”

Hue­ber had vol­un­teered with the horse show for some 30 years and she is “a per­son who has done noth­ing but sup­port Devon all these years,” McClain said.

Mary-Ellen Allen, the lawyer for the horse show, did not re­turn a call ask­ing for com­ment.

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