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CHICAGO Seeking stable ground, USOC creates task force



Published: Thu, February 13, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



It will try to find ways of streamlining the organization and improving its operation.

CHICAGO (AP) -- Eager to get the focus off its scandals and back on its athletes, the U.S. Olympic Committee had one final say on Lloyd Ward's woes and then created a task force to help it avoid future messes.

Whether it will be enough to satisfy Congress -- not to mention the American public -- remains to be seen.

"I don't think you change the world over the weekend. I think that it is a continuum," Ward said after the USOC's executive committee wrapped up a critical two-day meeting. "I think ultimately what blunts any criticism is not what occurs in a meeting, but what occurs in performance.

"The story will be written going forward, and it won't be one that has no history," the USOC's chief executive officer added. "But I think it will be one now where this weekend will create a little bit of air cover and a little bit of a runway so that we can do some good, and I'm excited about that."

Controversy

The USOC hasn't had much to be excited about in recent months. Since Ward was accused in December of trying to steer Olympic business to his brother's company, five USOC members have quit, president Marty Mankamyer resigned and the organization's leaders have been called before Congress.

Congress has the authority to revoke the USOC's charter, and senators have made it clear they want meaningful reform. One senator, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, even said Ward should resign because of his role in the recent scandals.

With another hearing scheduled Thursday, the USOC's executive committee gathered here this weekend knowing much was at stake.

"I want closure to this," Ward said Saturday. "Whatever it takes, let's do it and move forward."

The first issue to deal with was Ward's future. He's been a lightning rod for controversy since November, first for his membership at all-male Augusta National and then for the conflict-of-interest allegations involving his brother.

He drew a mild reprimand from the executive committee Jan. 13 for the latter case, prompting five USOC members -- including ethics compliance officer Pat Rodgers -- to resign in protest. Mankamyer stepped down Tuesday after colleagues accused her of trying to oust Ward in a bid for more power.

Punishment

On Saturday, the executive committee stripped Ward of his $184,800 bonus at the recommendation of its compensation committee, which found he'd committed two ethical violations. The compensation committee also said Ward should get a "strong letter of reprimand."

"Lloyd screwed up. I can't say it any clearer," said Bill Martin, the USOC's interim president. "But we've got to get beyond that. ... We have the faith in [Ward] and we're going to go forward with him."

But the USOC needed more than that group hug to silence its critics. Besides its petty catfights that were suited more for the tabloids than the sports pages, the USOC's leadership has been stuck on the high-speed spin cycle recently.

Counting Martin, the group has had three presidents in the past 11 months alone. It's had three CEOs since 2000.

So on Sunday, the executive committee announced the creation of a task force that will create a blueprint for major reform. The governance and ethics review task force will examine virtually every part of the USOC to find ways of streamlining the organization and improving its operation.

Its recommendations are due before the USOC's April board meeting.

"The task force has a broad mandate and a lot of work to do," said Bill Stapleton, who will chair the task force with fellow vice president Frank Marshall.

"We have a unique chance in the history of our organization to create real change that we have needed to make for a very long time."

Focuses

Martin said he would name the rest of the reform task force early this week. The group will then focus on six areas: ethical behavior; governance and organizational structure; maintenance of sensitive, confidential and proprietary information; communications policies; openness, transparency and disclosure; and fundraising efficiency.

The executive committee also asked Anita DeFrantz, Rob Stull and Al Monaco to finalize the selection process for a new president. DeFrantz, the senior U.S. member of the International Olympic Committee, said she hopes that can be done within two weeks.




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