The U.S. Olympic Committee's executive committee agreed almost unanimously today that embattled CEO Lloyd Ward should keep his job, despite adopting an internal compensation committee's recommendation to strip Ward of his $184,800 annual bonus and issue him a strongly worded letter of reprimand for two ethics violations.
USOC interim president Bill Martin said in plain language that Ward "screwed up" on an ethics matter involving a business proposal from his brother's company but that his performance over the last year otherwise was "excellent" when measured against the USOC's established performance criteria.
Martin said the executive committee voted 16-1 to adopt the compensation committee's two-page report and suggested that today's declaration of support for Ward -- along with the decision to penalize him -- should put to rest a matter that has consumed the organization for more than a month.
"We have confidence in his ability to lead this organization," Martin said. "We think Lloyd Ward has suffered. We believe we have suffered. It's time to move on. We've vetted this issue thoroughly."
Executive committee member Herb Perez, who this week called for Ward's resignation and did not attend the meeting, was the only member to vote against the resolution. Perez said he planned to resign if Ward did not.
Ward, who vowed at a Senate hearing nearly two weeks ago that he would resign if he did not have the support of the USOC's executive committee and the board of directors, looked wan and tired after learning of today's decision.
"I think this was a very fair and thoughtful judgment," Ward said. "I accept it fully, and I am looking forward to moving on. . . .
"I am saddened by the situation that caused so much time and attention to be away from our athletes. . . . It's a situation that was very unfortunate but we've dealt with it. I've paid, and unfortunately the Olympic movement itself has paid."
The compensation committee, which included USOC Vice President Paul George and several other USOC officials, directed that Ward's bonus be given to athlete programs. Ward, who makes $550,000 annually, could have received a bonus of just more than $200,000 had he met every one of his performance goals, George said.
Executive committee members said they briefly addressed Ward's membership in Augusta National Golf Club, which excludes women members and had been brought up on Friday by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), who called Ward's membership in the club "disgraceful." Campbell also charged Ward with engaging in "nepotism and cronyism," and said it would be best for the Olympic movement if Ward resigned this weekend.
"We certainly respect [Sen. Campbell's] opinion . . . [but] I will tell him we strongly support Lloyd," Martin said. "Lloyd screwed up, I can't say it any clearer. But we've got to get beyond that."
Executive committee member Anita DeFrantz referred to Ward's promise to the executive committee last November. At that time, he said he intended to work for change from within the golf club.
"He made a commitment to us and he will fulfill that commitment as he has fulfilled his obligations as CEO," DeFrantz said.
Earlier in the day, Ward said he believed his approach of working to be a catalyst for change from within Augusta -- he declined to detail his efforts -- was the "noble thing" to do.
"Augusta is a great institution . . . great institutions can always be better. . . . I believe in inclusion. I've been very public about that," he said.
"Augusta isn't going to change based on my resignation," Ward added. "That's not going to happen."
Ward said he has not considered voluntarily resigning from the USOC, not even after the ethics investigation into charges that he directed an employee to help his brother's company became public Dec. 30.
"I respect Senator Campbell and I certainly would like the opportunity at some point to explain how it's possible to see this in a more favorable light," Ward said. "I have not wavered one bit in terms of my commitment to the Olympic ideal. . . . I know my leadership can matter and make a difference."
George gave two examples of ways in which the committee determined that Ward had excelled in his job performance: in his creation and execution of the Titan Games, a new Olympic sport competition taking place this week in San Jose, and in his generation of around $50 million in new revenue for 2005-08, well over the established goal of $15 million.
Martin acknowledged that today's description of Ward's ethical missteps as "violations" represented a change. After a Jan. 13 meeting in which the executive committee said Ward's behavior had created the appearance of a conflict of interest and that he had failed to disclose his brother's ties to a company seeking Olympic business, the executive committee did not specifically use the word "violation."
Largely because of that decision, four USOC ethics officers resigned in protest.
"On further review from our compensation committee, and with the lights of the passage of time, we have simply reached a different conclusion," Martin said.
Today's decision -- which was reached after occasionally heated discussion, members said -- was supported by executive committee member Jim McCarthy, one of the three who voted against the resolution on Jan. 13. Perez and Brian Derwin, who resigned, were the others.
McCarthy today attended a news conference with DeFrantz, Martin and George in an apparent show of solidarity.
"Today's action indicates clearly -- if there was any confusion -- that there was a violation," McCarthy said, "and I believe the sanction is appropriate for what has occurred."