YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Calls for USOC Review Intensify

DeFrantz adds her influential voice to those seeking independent examination in wake of ethics furor. Justice Department apparently has begun inquiry.

January 20, 2003|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

The senior U.S. representative to the International Olympic Committee has issued a plea for the creation of a comprehensive, independent review of both a proposed power supply deal for the 2003 Pan American Games as well as a recent U.S. Olympic Committee ethics panel investigation of the proposal.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department apparently has launched an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the business proposal, which has sparked an ethics-related furor revolving around USOC Chief Executive Lloyd Ward and plunged the Olympic movement into a second ethics crisis in four years. U.S. agents are expected in Santo Domingo on Wednesday, according to an official with the Pan Am Games organizing committee.

IOC member Anita DeFrantz of Los Angeles, a 1976 bronze medalist in rowing who has long been one of the most influential figures within the Olympic movement in the United States and around the world, said in an e-mail sent around the USOC that an independent review would offer an "equitable and transparent process" aimed at reassuring sponsors, athletes and the U.S. public that, as she put it, the USOC is "healthy."

She also said in the e-mail that such a review "is the best and probably the only way to heal this organization and resuscitate its good name." She said in a telephone interview Sunday, "We need to have sunshine and light," adding, "I just want it to happen, and fast."

The flurry of events in recent days underscores the fluidity, intensity and volatility of a situation that has thrown the U.S. Olympic movement into its most serious challenge since the eruption four years ago of the corruption scandal tied to Salt Lake City's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games.

The Salt Lake scandal led to the resignations or expulsions of 10 IOC members. Five USOC officials have resigned since last Monday, when the executive committee took no action against Ward although that internal ethics board found he had "created the appearance of a conflict of interest." Those who resigned: ethics compliance officer Patrick J. Rodgers; three members of the ethics oversight committee; and Brian Derwin, a member of the executive committee.

USOC President Marty Mankamyer, under intense pressure last Sunday night, indicated an intent to resign. She has since changed her mind and now says she is staying on.

U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), architect of the 1978 law that gave the USOC oversight of Olympic sports in this country, on Friday ordered USOC officials to Washington by the end of the month for an emergency meeting. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), a 1964 U.S. Olympian, echoed the call for a meeting. The two senators called recent reports of USOC turmoil "troubling."

As first reported Dec. 30 in The Times, Ward last year directed USOC staff to make introductions on behalf of Detroit-based Energy Management Technologies to Pan Am organizers in the Dominican Republic. Last July 1, he signed a USOC disclosure form that said he had no real or perceived conflicts of interest.

EMT documents identified Ward's brother, Rubert, as president, and the brothers' childhood friend, Lorenzo Williams, as CEO. The company at one point proposed a deal for $4.6 million; no contract has been signed. Lloyd Ward has no financial interest in EMT.

In a Dec. 13 meeting in Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic, Williams allegedly offered a bribe to win a deal, according to Lowell Fernandez, the Games' project manager. Williams denies offering a bribe. Fernandez made a tape recording of their meeting that day; the tape has been played for The Times.

In a telephone interview Sunday, Fernandez said U.S. authorities -- he said he understood it would be a federal prosecutor and one, perhaps two, FBI agents -- have made arrangements to meet with him Wednesday in Santo Domingo. He was first asked if he could come to Washington but said he had scheduling conflicts. "They want the tape recorder because it's a digital tape recorder," he said.

He added, "There was interest by the U.S. Attorney's office that this case might be interesting."

A call Sunday to U.S. Justice Department officials in Washington was not returned.

Though it found the creation of the "appearance of a conflict of interest," the USOC's ethics report, made public Monday, did not use the word "violation."

The report recommended no disciplinary action, and the executive committee took none. Ward has apologized for what he called an "error in judgment" but has said he did "nothing wrong."

In an e-mail sent Wednesday to the other members of the USOC ethics board, a couple of days before he resigned from the panel, Edward S. Petry, executive director of the Belmont, Mass.-based Ethics Officers Assn., said: "We discussed the severity of the violation, how we should report our findings, what parts of the code were violated, but we never concluded that his actions were not a violation. Our report was unfortunately ambiguous on this matter."

Los Angeles Times Articles