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State regulator retires to take a job, he thinks, with barrel racing track

Jim BarnesAnother turn in the Tallahassee revolving door involves Jim Barnes, a former investigator with the state's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. The 19-year veteran of the department resigned Nov. 21 to reportedly take a job at the newest horse track to open shop in Florida, the barrel racing and cardroom venue in the tiny North Florida town of Gretna owned by Creek Entertainment. Today is his last day. Download Resignation letter-Barnes

Among Barnes' jobs was to review permit applications. The department said he did not review the controversial permit to authorize barrel racing as a pari-mutuel game for Gretna. That decision is currently being challenged by the Florida Quarter Horse Association which views barrel racing as an unsanctioned pari-mutuel game in Florida and dangerous to quarter horses.

In an e-mail letter to friends and colleagues on Monday, Barnes said, "I have gone to the dark side and will start a new job on Thursday with Creek Entertainment Gretna as their Chief of Security.  That’s the new quarterhorse/barrel racing/poker room facility about 25 miles west of Tallahassee."

But Marc Dunbar, one of the lawyers and owners of new track, said Barnes has no job and no commitment that he'll receive one in the future. The track has listed Theresa Embry on forms submitted to the department as its chief of security, he said. 

"On behalf, Creek Entertainment Gretna, he has no employment with us. He hasn’t even filled out an application with us,'' Dunbar said. "Whether it’s an accurate email or not, I have no idea. It’s once again misinformation trying to hurt the opening of a facility."

When reached on Wednesday, Barnes did not want to comment to a reporter except to say: "I really hope you don't screw up my retirement job."

DBPR did confirm, however, that Barnes is normally one of the people to review these permits. When Dunbar and another partner in the Gretna track, David Romanik sought a permit to build a quarterhorse track in Jefferson County, they choose to build it on a site owned by one of Barnes' relatives. Barnes recused himself from that permiting process. The permit was not only approved by DBPR, but given an extension before the Jefferson County Commission rejected it. 

Update: At 7 p.m., Jay Dorris, CEO of PCI Gaming, the managing partner of Gretna Racing, LLC issued this statement: 

"Mr. Barnes has not interviewed for a job nor has he been offered a position with Gretna Racing.  Mr. Barnes, like any other candidates who wish to seek employment at Gretna Racing must submit a completed job application to be considered for employment at the facility.  We never received an application from Mr. Barnes and thus he is not being considered for any position.  Any statements to the contrary are untrue."