Injunction Signed Tuesday Re-Instates Ex-NRHA President as Member, Judge

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Allen Mitchels
A temporary injunction, signed Tuesday, March 13, by District Court of Oklahoma County Judge Barbara Swinton, restores several privileges taken from former National Reining Horse Association President Allen Mitchels, but not the president’s title, and it requires him to post a $50,000 bond.

Unless the NRHA or court imposes a contradictory action, Mitchells will regain his right to judge events, and can serve on the NRHA Teaching Panel and Judges Committee, said an attorney representing him, Kevin Donelson. Former National Reining Horse Association President Mitchels was stripped of that title and other membership, judging and leadership privileges during a Jan. 21 board meeting, but when or if he posts the requirred bond, he’ll have most of those privileges temporarily returned due to the recent court proceedings.

The judge decided not to re-instate Mitchels as NRHA president, a move also sought with his motions, but “that was the only thing denied,” his attorney said.

“He continues to be removed as president of the National Reining Horse Association, however, he has been reinstated to retain his membership on the Judges Committee, has been reinstated with judging privileges, has had his lifetime ban to a position of authority dissolved, and has had the imposition of a conditional membership that causes him to re-apply for judging privileges after five years dissolved,” Donelson said.

Now that the judge has signed it, Mitchels’ temporary injunction takes effect as soon as he posts a $50,000 bond, a requirement of the injunction. At that point, Mitchels’ NRHA rights, aside from his former role in serving as NRHA president, will officially be re-instated, his attorney said.

A temporary injunction differs from a temporary restraining order, Donelson said, in that it does not have an expiration date. It will remain in place until Mitchels and the NRHA resolve pending civil court issues in the Oklahoma County District Court case, he added.

Board members decided to remove Mitchels from his position as NRHA president based partly on allegations he abused that status during mid-December’s NRHA Futurity in Oklahoma City. In its motion filed with the same Oklahoma County District Court, opposing Mitchels’ motion to retain NRHA judging privileges, the association said it conducted an investigation of his behavior at the 2011 NRHA Futurity. It “confirmed that Plaintiff [Mitchels] stayed at the judges’ hotel, had dinner and drinks with judges, had conversations with judges beyond the exchange of normal greetings” and that he spent time in the judging room at the event. Mitchels owned a horse competing at the show.

The NRHA motion notes as someone who has judged association events for more than 30 years, Mitchels was “acutely aware of the problems associated with such conduct.” It states that in most cases “courts will not second-guess a decision of the majority in a corporation.”

Mitchels contends he did nothing wrong. “He definitely denies that he did anything improper or anything against the rules of the association,” his attorney Donelson said.

In early February, Mitchels filed a civil lawsuit against the reining association. His lawsuit alleges that while improperly taking away his NRHA privileges, the organization also published “slanderous comments” damaging his ability to work as a judge with the NRHA and other horse associations.

The injunction signed Tuesday, restoring Mitchel’s NRHA rights, applies until his civil court case is resolved, his attorney said. Granting the temporary injunction does not indicate the judge favors facts presented by either side. She did decide that Mitchels has a right to retain his former rights as an NRHA member as the court case continues.

An NRHA motion protesting the injunction signed by the judge cites “potential harm” to the organization. It states that granting the order “ignores this current dispute and the fact that the overwhelming majority of [NRHA] Directors voted to remove Plaintiff [Mitchels].” It continues, “Reinstating him, especially in light of the results of the investigation, would create chaos and undermine the Board’s authority in managing the affairs of the Association, as provided in the Bylaws.”

An investigation that included talking with NRHA staff members indicated Mitchels acted as NRHA president in ways that “consistently interfered with the management, relationships, and tasks that are essential to NRHA,” its opposing motion states. “Plaintiff’s attitude and behavior created a tremendous amount of anxiety among NRHA staff, and many feared Plaintiff would retaliate against anyone who disagreed with him or spoke out against him.”

Another motion filed by the NRHA, seeking to entirely dismiss Mitchels’ pending civil suit filed against it in February, is set for an April 13 district court hearing in Oklahoma City. Repeated calls to an attorney representing the NRHA have not been returned.