New allegations, no hope for peace prompt USOC's Mankamyer to quit

Olympic panel president decides to end infighting before formal ouster steps

Olympics

February 05, 2003|By Philip Hersh | Philip Hersh,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CHICAGO - Faced with revelations of conflict-of-interest issues related to her Colorado Springs real estate business, U.S. Olympic Committee president Marty Mankamyer resigned last night.

Mankamyer's decision came four days before the USOC executive committee planned to begin a formal ouster process against her. It ended a month of public squabbling among the organization's volunteer leadership.

"This is a time when the USOC needs to refocus on its priorities and get away from public displays of disagreement," Mankamyer said in a prepared statement disseminated to USOC officials and the media. "There seemed to be no possibility for peace unless I stepped aside."

Mankamyer, 69, is the second USOC president to resign in the last eight months. She had succeeded Sandy Baldwin, who resigned last May after admitting to falsehoods on her resume.

"I simply would never have the resources, mental or otherwise, to face an ongoing barrage like this," Mankamyer said.

Mankamyer said she has sold homes to USOC employees and had tried to sell real estate to USOC chief executive Lloyd Ward, who has been investigated for conflict of interest related to his brother's company. All five USOC vice presidents have accused Mankamyer of manipulating that investigation to undermine Ward, found to have committed a "technical violation" of the USOC ethics code.

The Denver Post reported yesterday that Brigette Ruskin, the Colorado Springs real estate agent who eventually handled the 2001 sale of a building lot and a custom-built home to Ward, said she had been pressured by Mankamyer, then a USOC vice president, to pay a referral fee.

In a series of e-mail responses, Mankamyer acknowledged receiving a $9,534 fee, which was incidental to the issue of whether she should have been selling real estate to USOC employees while serving as a USOC officer.

Earlier yesterday, Mankamyer had answered "no," to the question of whether this new controversy would lead her to resign before Saturday's executive committee meeting.

Under provisions of the USOC constitution, Mankamyer will be succeeded on an acting basis by University of Michigan athletic director William Martin, the USOC vice president/secretariat. An election will be held for a president to serve the final 22 months of her term.

Vice president Paul George, who lost to Baldwin and Mankamyer in the last two elections, is a probable candidate.

The internal conflict at the USOC had been aired a week ago at a hearing before the Commerce Committee.

Mankamyer called the Denver Post story "totally incorrect ... but no one wanted to read or hear the truth."

In an earlier e-mail yesterday, Mankamyer wrote, "My ethics disclosure form always stated, `I am a licensed real estate broker.' From time to time, I have sold homes to USOC employees when they contacted me. I never solicited business from the USOC."

Mankamyer said she sought advice about doing business with Ward. "I asked Pat Rodgers if it was [a conflict of interest], and he stated to me, contrary to what [he said] in the Denver Post, that it was not," Mankamyer wrote.

Rodgers, unavailable yesterday, is the former USOC ethics officer who resigned after the executive committee did not use the word "violation" in its original resolution on the Ward case.

Philip Hersh is a reporter for The Chicago Tribune.

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