Five U.S. Olympic Committee vice presidents and two high-ranking officers yesterday called for the resignation of USOC President Marty Mankamyer, accusing her of waging a personal campaign to discredit the organization's chief executive and of reneging on an earlier pledge to resign.
The seven officials wrote in a four-page statement that Mankamyer and former USOC compliance officer Patrick Rodgers interfered with the organization's ethics oversight process in an attempt to force out CEO Lloyd Ward, who underwent an ethics review for directing a USOC employee to consider a business proposal from his brother's company.
"We believe President Mankamyer must resign as she promised to do," USOC Vice President Bill Stapleton said during a conference call to discuss the statement. "She no longer has our support, nor do we believe she has the necessary leadership skills to guide the USOC."
In a phone call last night, Mankamyer said she was "troubled" by a number of aspects of Ward's leadership but denied trying to oust him. She said she would not resign.
"At this point, I haven't specifically been charged with anything, nor have I done anything [wrong] other than displeased my fellow officers," she said.
The statement and Mankamyer's response underscored the political unrest that has thrown the USOC into tumult since the end of December and resulted in a public rebuke by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who along with Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) has called the USOC leaders to a meeting on Capitol Hill. No date has yet been set for the meeting, which could be next week. On Monday, Mankamyer called for an independent investigation of the ethics oversight review process.
Mankamyer can be removed only with the support of the 120-plus member USOC board of directors, which is next scheduled to meet in mid-April. A special meeting would require 30 days notice and the write-in support of a majority of the board.
"I would hope Marty would realize her continuing battle to keep her post is going to be more damaging to the organization than to simply resign," said Stapleton, who vowed to resign if Mankamyer could not be forced out.
The conflict began when ethics charges surrounding Ward, who had been under review by the ethics panel since October, were leaked to the media three weeks ago. At the time, Mankamyer called the charges "serious and disturbing," but on the eve of a Jan. 13 executive committee meeting called by Mankamyer -- ostensibly to discuss Ward's future -- Mankamyer was asked to resign by the seven officers, who were angry at what they said were her attempts to undermine Ward and the ethics process. A day later, Mankamyer agreed to resign, but asked to have until last Friday to do so.
The day Mankamyer agreed to resign, the USOC's executive committee adopted by an 18-3 vote the report of an ethics oversight committee on the Ward case, which stated that Ward's behavior created the appearance of a conflict of interest but chastised unnamed officials -- it was later learned the reference was to Mankamyer and Rodgers -- for an abuse of the ethics process. The ethics report directly implicated Rodgers, stating that the problem could have been "easily" avoided by timely compliance counseling.
Within three days of that meeting, five USOC officials -- including Rodgers and three members of the 10-person ethics oversight committee -- resigned in protest of the executive committee's decision not to sanction Ward. As a result of those resignations, Mankamyer told the executive committee she would not step down.
The seven officials who called for Mankamyer's resignation -- vice presidents Stapleton, Herman Frazier, Paul George, Frank Marshall and Bill Martin, Athletes Advisory Council chair Rachel Godino and National Governing Body Council Chair Robert Marbut -- say that Mankamyer has engaged in a crusade of attacks against Ward for several months and has failed to respond to mediation to iron out differences between her and Ward.
"This has been a continuing pattern of behavior," said Marbut, who said he and an outside official were called in to mediate the growing dispute between Ward and Mankamyer in late October. The mediation, he said, occurred just before a November board meeting in which Ward's controversial affiliation with Augusta National Golf Club, which bans women members, had been discussed. Marbut said the situation fell into disarray within 72 hours of both Ward's and Mankamyer's signing a pledge to work together.
As a mediator, one usually finds "that both sides have done something wrong," Marbut said. "When we got into it, we found 90 percent of the problem was on Marty's side of the house. . . . Almost all of his [10 percent] was a reaction to things Marty was doing."
Marbut said Mankamyer had sent Ward a number of "acerbic" letters, including one the day after she took office in October demanding that the international affairs office be moved to her personal office outside of USOC headquarters. In that letter, she also demanded a number of refurbishments to that office.
Mankamyer said she and Ward never saw eye to eye on the operation of international relations as president -- but that otherwise there was no tension between them. Ward could not be reached for comment.
In their statement yesterday, the seven officers also charged Mankamyer with using the recent resignations of the five USOC officials as a platform to further defame Ward, a former Maytag executive who has been the organization's chief executive for just over a year. The seven officers said that Rodgers became a "major protagonist" who cooperated with Mankamyer "to create a rush to judgment and to create pressure on Mr. Ward in order that he might resign."
Rodgers, who said he resigned out of frustration that Ward was not penalized for what he believed were clear ethics violations, said he couldn't specifically answer whether there was a personal crusade against Ward. However, he said he was made aware of rumors that Ward hadn't wanted Mankamyer to be elected president in October and that he had reported those rumors to the ethics oversight chairman, Kenneth Duberstein.
Rodgers also said the seven USOC officials were using diversionary tactics to attempt to deflect attention from Ward's ethical missteps.
"Attacking and impugning the motives and character of those standing for principle is the classic divergence to deflect and transfer the accountability for the failure to others," Rodgers said. "This is exactly why employees in corporations do not come forward with reports of misconduct by management. They weigh the impact of the truth against the inevitable attempt made by those responsible to destroy them personally."
Stapleton for the first time yesterday referred to Ward's behavior as a violation, stating that the executive committee agreed that Ward had committed "a technical violation that did not rise to the level of termination, or even close to that."