Interviews with 17 people at the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters in Colorado Springs over the last two days have brought to light details of "borderline criminal" bookkeeping and a pattern of excessive severance packages among upper-level management, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) said yesterday.
Campbell said he and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) were appalled at documentation they had acquired this week showing a variety of manipulated accounting and unwarranted and possibly illegal severance deals in the last four years.
"The documentation they've given us, it's very bad," Campbell said by phone from Colorado Springs.
Though Campbell restated his call for current USOC CEO Lloyd Ward to resign, he said the information gathered indicated that the problems surfaced long before Ward arrived in the fall of 2001. Campbell said 13 severance packages totaling $4.7 million were given to high-level employees who have departed since 1999. Campbell said it is unclear whether such packages are even allowed under the Amateur Sports Act, the 1978 law that created the USOC.
Former USOC executive director Dick Schultz received a Cadillac and free gas for life as part of a $1.1 million severance package, Campbell said he was told.
Meantime, a source said former USOC CEO Norm Blake resigned under pressure in the fall of 2000 in part for having allegedly disguised signing bonuses as relocation expenses for nearly a half-dozen hires. The source said the alleged maneuver allowed Blake to pay them $30,000 to $50,000 more than allowed by the organization's bylaws.
Campbell also said officials told him of being forced to change accounting figures "to make it look like money had been properly spent."
Stevens, who has demanded more documents from the USOC, told reporters in Colorado Springs he would seek a General Accounting Office investigation and audit if the documents weren't supplied immediately.
Campbell, however, said he wasn't sure any action should be taken.
"My worry is, we've got all this negative stuff flying around the Olympic Committee," he said. "I'm not sure to what end it would serve to have more flying around. . . . I'm not sure we shouldn't just cut our losses and try to move on. . . . I really don't want to drag the athletes through this."
Campbell said he planned to meet with USOC President Bill Martin by phone next week to discuss the work of the USOC's internal reform task force to ensure that it was moving in the right direction. He, Stevens and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) requested the appointment Thursday of an independent commission to propose changes to the organization led by Major League Players Association Executive Director Don Fehr and attorney Roberta Cooper Ramo.
"Hopefully, they are going to do most of [the reform] so we don't have to do it by legislation," Campbell said.
Campbell suggested that Ward could resolve much of the current controversy simply by stepping down -- and taking some of his closest staff with him.
"If some of the principals involved in this problem would go away, a lot of the problem would go away in the eyes of the Senate," Campbell said.
Ward has said he would resign only if asked to by the USOC's executive committees board of directors, which next meets in April.