USOPC opens ethics investigation of Anne Warner Cribbs, Olympic alumni group election – Press Enterprise

A 2019 investigation of USA Table Tennis commissioned by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee found that then USATT board chairman Anne Warner Cribbs had violated organization bylaws by not disclosing a conflict of interest, according to the investigation’s confidential final report obtained by the Orange County Register.

The investigation by Arent Fox, a national law and lobbying firm whose alumni include six U.S. senators, also found that Cribbs, a former Olympic swimmer, had manipulated meeting agendas to protect board members aligned with her, according to the confidential report.

The investigation’s findings were cited by the USOPC when in November 2019 it threatened to strip USATT of its national governing body status and demanded Cribbs and the rest of the USATT board resign.

“At this time, due to USATT’s ongoing issues with its operations, governance and culture, the USOPC is concerned that USATT may be unable to meet its obligations to its members, including U.S. athletes,” C. Onye Ikwuakor, USOPC associate general counsel wrote in a Nov. 25, 2019 letter to Cribbs and USATT CEO Virginia Sung. “The USOPC is also concerned that USATT is failing to conduct itself in a manner that demonstrates it is capable of fulfilling the responsibilities of an Olympic Sports Organization and NGB, as is required by … USOPC Bylaws.

“Given the number and severity of the issues identified by the USOPC and in the Confidential Independent Report, it appears that termination of USATT’s recognition as the NGB for the sport of Table Tennis in the United States may be appropriate at this time.”

The USOPC held off on decertifying USATT, but Cribbs and the board were forced to resign in December 2019.

The Arent Fox report is the focus of a USOPC ethics review into whether Cribbs should have disclosed the 2019 findings and whether USOPC by-laws were violated during a recent election of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Alumni officers in which she was a candidate.

The USOPA election dispute is significant because the organization has a seat on the USOPC board of directors, which plays a leading role in setting the priorities and direction of the USOPC and the 50 national governing bodies under its umbrella.

“The (USOPC) is currently reviewing complaints made relating to the (USOPA) nomination and election process,” Holly Shick, USOPC chief ethics and compliance officer wrote in an Oct. 28 letter to USOPA members.

Twelve days earlier, Shick informed USOPA members that “Based on several complaints that we received regarding the nominating and election process, the matter has been referred to the USOPC’s Ethics Committee for review. As a result, we have asked USOPA to delay any announcements of election results. Our intention in referring this matter to the Ethics Committee is to ensure that the nomination and election processes were fair and effective, and were conducted with transparency and integrity.”

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The USOPC review comes as the organization faces intense criticism and scrutiny from Congress, former Olympians and the public for its and the NGBs’ failure to effectively address sexual abuse within American Olympic sports, a lack of transparency, and concerns that the organizations are prioritizing medals and  corporate sponsorships over athlete safety.

President Trump last week signed into law the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act, a landmark reform package that provides Congress with the power to dissolve the USOPC’s board of directors and decertify NGBs.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), the legislation’s co-author, said a “massive seismic cultural shift” is needed within the USOPC and American Olympic sports.

Voting began in the USOPA election on Sept. 14. The votes were tallied on Oct. 5, according to documents related to the review, and the results were expected to be announced at the USOPC’s annual assembly Oct. 9.

But on Oct. 1, attorney Edward G. Williams, a member of the USOPA, and a biathlete in the 1968 Winter Olympics, filed a complaint with the USOPC’s Shick.

The USOPC should nullify the election, Williams, a former assistant U.S. attorney wrote, of the “failure of USOPA and its Nominating Committee to comply with its own self-imposed regulations and mandates as set forth in its own bylaws and procedures.”

Williams also requested that the USOPC “direct that there be a new election of officers of USOPA and declare Anne Cribbs, and all self-nominated candidates who have a disabling conflict of interest, or who fail criminal, SafeSport and /or Anti-Doping background checks, or who have had disqualifying ethical lapses or other serious blemishes in their past that could cause embarrassment to the USOPA and USOPC if elected, or controversy concerning the unquestioned high ethics and integrity required of a person to serve as an officer of the USOPA, ineligible to be considered for election as an officer of USOPA.”

Current USOPA president Dick Fosbury, the 1968 Olympic high jump champion, declined to answer specific questions about Williams’ complaint or the USOPC investigation.

“I will be happy to respond once the internal investigation of the complaint is completed,” Fosbury said in an email. “I can say that USOPA followed our standards for election procedures according to our constitution and bylaws and this is the first complaint we have ever received on our elections.”

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John Naber, chairman of the USOPA nominating committee and an Olympic swimming champion, also declined comment. Nabers, a former USOPA president, is one of four candidates for the two alumni seats on the USOPC board of directors voted on by the USOPA. The results of that election are expected to be announced later this month.

“I am happy to answer any and all of your questions, once the Internal Investigation has been completed,” Naber said in an email.

Cribbs also declined comment.

“I’m happy to discuss once the Ethics Committee makes a decision,” Cribbs said.

Cribbs was sixth in the 1960 Olympic Games 200-meter breaststroke. She also swam in the preliminary round of the 4×100 meter medley relay.

Cribbs has been president and CEO of the San Francisco Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee since 1999. She also led the Bay Area bids to host the 2012, 2016 and 2024 Olympic Games and was co-founder of the ill-fated American Basketball League in 1996.

The Arent Fox investigation of USATT found that Cribbs and board members were “blind to their overall duties as set forth in the USATT Bylaws.”

“Board members frequently adopt strategies to resolve their challenges with a lack of consensus, and sometimes in violation of their Bylaws. These self-created challenges and issues create animosity, distrust, and an inability of Board members to focus on the overall duties and mission of USA TT,” according to the investigation’s report.

The law firm also investigated allegations that Cribbs, as board chairman, arrange the board agenda to protect allies on the board and that minutes from meetings covering controversial topics were not posted as required by the NGB’s by-laws.”

“Concerns were raised with the USOPC related to the allegation that Ms. Cribbs, the chairperson of the Board, manipulates meeting agendas to protect Board members who are aligned with her,” the report said. “During our interviews, we determined that this allegation was confirmed to be true. We were informed that Ms. Cribbs, on one occasion, requested that the agenda item to consider (another board member’s) removal from the USA TT Board be put under the ‘Old Business’ section of the agenda, with the implication that Ms. Cribbs wished to conceal and/or downplay the issues involving (the board member).

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“Further, we have found that certain Board minutes have been omitted and/or not posted. Under USA TT Bylaws Section 7 .25, ‘[ a ]pproved minutes of all meetings shall be published on USATT’s website. Minutes of all meetings shall be approved prior to or during the following meeting. The approved motions from each meeting shall be published as soon as possible.’ Coincidentally, the missing minutes are from meetings where controversial topics were addressed, such as the August 12, 2019 meeting where (1) (a board member) made a formal motion to remove (an ally of Cribbs) as Board member; and (2) Executive Session was convened to consider removal of Ms. Sung. Also, a special meeting was called on May 6, 2019 to discuss the finalist candidates for the CEO position, but no minutes or notices were posted as required under the bylaws.”

Arent Fox also found that Cribbs violated USATT by-laws when she failed to disclose to the USATT her conflict of interest of serving on the board of the International Table Tennis Foundation-North America while USATT chairman.

“An ordinary prudent individual in a like position would disclose this conflict or potential conflict to USATT Board in order that the Board may evaluate whether the role presents any concerns,” the report said. “This is especially true given the fact as a Board member of ITTF-NA, Ms. Cribbs provides oversight, including offering strategic planning to ITTF-NA.

“USA TT Conflict of Interest policy states that ‘ … In the consideration of an issue where possible conflicts exist, such individuals will avoid evaluation, or in any other way influencing, directly or indirectly, or voting on the matter involved, and will be physically absent during the evaluation and vote.’

“We have reviewed the meeting minutes and found no such disclosure or recusal by Ms. Cribbs.”