ITC Board responds to calls for president's resignation
The Iditarod Official Finishers Club demanding the resignation of the president of the Iditarod Board of Directors in a letter dated Tuesday. Friday afternoon, the Iditarod Trail Board of Directors responded to calls for Andy Baker's resignation.
On Tuesday, the IOFC sent a letter to the Iditarod Board demanding Baker’s resignation. The letter stated that Baker and others on the board should not have conflicted interests if they are to serve; however, in the letter, it does not state what those conflicts of interests are specifically, saying, “We believe that the people serving on the board of directors should not have a vested interest in the outcome of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race”.
"My vested interest is making sure we put on the best race possible, and that the dogs are safe and healthy, and that it's a good experience for the mushers," Baker said Thursday night.
Friday, the Board of Directors released a statement following their board meeting:
The Iditarod Board of Directors had a meaningful dialogue regarding the IOFC’s letter requesting the resignation of Andy Baker at today’s board meeting. After much discussion, the board unanimously decided that they are going to stand by the previous statement and no changes will be made. With 21 days until the start of the race, the board and staff's focus continues to be staging and implementing a safe, successful 2018 race for the sled dogs, mushers, fans, volunteers and race personnel along the trail. We look forward to and are committed to addressing changes at the April 13, 2018, board meeting after the successful conclusion of the 2018 race.
The letter also states that Baker received a unanimous vote of no confidence at the last meeting of the IOFC and that the IOFC decided to wait until the release of the Foraker report until deciding on further action.
Baker stated at the November IOFC meeting that he would resign if called for by the Foraker report and the mushers, the letter states. In late January, an extensive report conducted by the Foraker Group, which was commissioned by the race’s major sponsors, was publicly released. The report’s authors warned of dire consequences if the ITC doesn’t alter course.
“If action is not taken and soon, it is Foraker’s opinion that ITC will lose major sponsors, have less revenue and may have to accept that it can no longer be the leading event for the sport of dog mushing,” the report read.
The IOFC letter asks for Baker’s resignation by February 15.
“The IOFC cautions the board of directors that should Andy refuse to immediately step down that the 2018 race, including the bib drawing ceremony and the ceremonial start, will be completely overshadowed by negative discourse and action demanding his resignation,” the letter reads.
“Mushers do not want to race under this board of directors; the resignation of the board president, Andy Baker, would be the first of many necessary steps to repair the broken trust that has developed,” it continued. “Andy Baker’s presence is not necessary for the running of the 2018 race and the 2018 race would be better off if Andy Baker completely removed himself from it.”
The letter concludes, “The 68 mushers who have tirelessly worked to train their dog teams, day in and day out, deserve better than to race under a president who has jeopardized the integrity of entire livelihoods through his poor leadership.”
"I think a lot of people have an issue with the conflict of interest- is the biggest issue, obviously," Wade Marrs, president of the IOFC, said Thursday night. "And a lot of people just want to see that the board's serious about changing."
"We definitely want peace and unity, but sometimes change is how you get peace and unity," Marrs continued. "The thought behind it is that hopefully, they'll calm the seas to have some change, and that's kind of where we're looking at it from -- is trying to figure out how to kill all the hubbub from every direction and slow it all down and work together."
"The end goal is always to create a better Iditarod," Marrs said.
Sources tell KTVA Sports that the IOFC didn’t want the letter publicly released, and it’s not clear who released the letter to the media, nor is it clear which of the 700-some members of the IOFC contributed to the writing of the letter.
Just three weeks away from the kickoff of the forty-fifth running of the Last Great Race, the event is weathering even more drama in what has been a tumultuous offseason.
Following last year’s race, four-time champion Dallas Seavey had four dogs test positive for Tramadol, a pain reliever. The Iditarod Trail Committee kept the results of the dogs’ positive tests private until October, prompting Seavey to then go on the offensive, accusing board members of a witch hunt.
Seavey later announced he wouldn’t run in this year’s Iditarod, instead opting for the Finnmarkslopet, Norway’s version of the Iditarod. According to his PR firm, Seavey is currently in Norway training for that race, which begins on March 9.
KTVA has reached out to numerous members of the IOFC for comment; those calls haven’t been returned.
Dave Goldman, John Thompson and Chris Klint contributed to this report.
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