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Romney Is Selected President

Olympics: Salt Lake Organizing Committee has third CEO in 18 months.

February 12, 1999|MIKE PENNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SALT LAKE CITY — Cleanup and confession were the dominant Olympic themes emanating from here Thursday as the Salt Lake Organizing Committee named a new president and an American member of the International Olympic Committee admitted giving a job to the son of an IOC member who resigned last month because of the bribery scandal.

Shortly after the SLOC appointed Boston venture capitalist Mitt Romney as its third CEO in 18 months, Los Angeles-based IOC member Jim Easton told reporters he had given a summer job to Sebo Sibandze, son of David Sibandze, the Swaziland IOC member pressured into resigning his position in January.

"We hired a son of an IOC member in 1995, but it was conditional on his passing the interview process," said Easton, president of Easton Technical Products, a company that manufactures arrow shafts and tent tubing. "He worked for us for three months during the summer. . . . He was an outstanding employee. We got more than our money's worth."

Easton said he was asked by Salt Lake City bid committee official Dave Johnson if he could find summer work for Sibandze, and obliged because he wanted to "help the bid" for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Similar favors for children of IOC members during Salt Lake City's bid campaign triggered five separate investigations into the bid, leading to the eventual resignations of Johnson and the head of the bid committee, Tom Welch.

Easton said he didn't believe he was doing anything wrong by hiring Sibandze.

"Hindsight is wonderful," Easton said. "I wouldn't do it if I knew what I do today. It was a summer job. At the time, it seemed like the thing to do, helping the bid committee."

Easton was in Salt Lake City Thursday to attend a meeting of the SLOC board of trustees, of which he is a member. The meeting was called, ostensibly, to vote for a new CEO to run the committee, but Romney's appointment was a virtual foregone conclusion.

Two days earlier, a SLOC ethics panel had released a 300-page report detailing local misconduct during the city's bid to host the 2002 Games. Then, SLOC chairman Robert Garff assembled a "selection committee" to sift through more than 40 applications to nominate a candidate for the CEO vacancy.

Less than 48 hours later, Romney was appointed as the SLOC's third president since August 1997, when Frank Joklik replaced Welch, who resigned amid charges of spousal abuse. Joklik resigned on Jan. 8 in an attempt to quell local outrage over the Olympic scandal.

Romney, a Massachusetts Republican who campaigned unsuccessfully against Sen. Edward Kennedy in 1994, said his goal was to ensure that "these Games and the preparations leading up to the Games will comply with the highest level of ethical conduct" and proposed that any SLOC member "casting a shadow on these Games . . . step aside."

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