by Irvin Muchnick
Is the U.S. Center for SafeSport “ghosting” Sarah Ehekircher? No one from there has communicated with her since our May 29, May 31, and June 3 reports on the disgraceful way — effectively, the sting operation — by which the agency lured her into a meeting to discuss her complaint against swimming coach groomer-abuser Scott MacFarland. The center’s director of legal affairs, Michael Henry, not so coincidentally was an added last-minute attendee of the meeting, at which the investigator’s hostile interrogation of Ehekircher got recorded even though she didn’t have her own lawyer present.
But there’s good news, too: Liz Hahn, USA Swimming’s safe sport coordinator, called Ehekircher on behalf of CEO Tim Hinchey and scheduled a second Ehekircher-Hinchey-Hahn meeting to follow up on the one they held in Colorado Springs on May 1. This time, on June 25, lawyers will be there. For both sides.
In addition, swimming released to Ehekircher the disputed transcript of the 2010 National Board of Review hearing at which MacFarland, outrageously, got exonerated, just months after the heavily hyped start-up of the safe sport program.
I’ve read the copy of the transcript Ehekircher shared with me, but I’m not going to publish it, at least not yet. Suffice to say that the document is extremely damning for USA Swimming, in addition to being a record of both a humiliating experience for the complainant and an unfairly conducted hearing of her complaint.
It is apparent that the whole session was driven and controlled by MacFarland’s lawyer. Ehekircher was not formally represented, as the swimming organization itself essentially replaced her as the complainant, and the group’s house counsel served as the “prosecutor” — and in so doing narrowly defined the potential conduct code violation against MacFarland in such a way that nothing at all wound up happening to him.
The transcript shows general procedural lapses that were prejudicial to Ehekircher, plus specific exchanges, wisecracks, and atmospherics that were way out of order.
There’s another reason not to publish the NBOR transcript: it barely scratches the surface of the records Ehekircher is seeking. Of greatest importance is the voluminous materials of information related to all things MacFarland — other swimmers, other coaches, witnesses on Ehekircher’s behalf who were left on the bench at the hearing — that got buried by USA Swimming and its fixer law firm, which now goes by the name Bryan Cave. MacFarland coached at various times under both the late Hall of Famer Jack Nelson, in Fort Lauderdale, and the subsequently defrocked head Olympic coach Mark Schubert, in Mission Viejo, California. (More shortly from here on the new bad publicity surrounding Schubert’s career of enabling abuse in his programs.)
These new Ehekircher developments come at a moment when Congressional investigations of Olympic sports program abuses are getting better. Though a recent hearing of the House Energy and Commerce oversight and investigations subcommittee proved disappointingly superficial, the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security — especially ranking Democrat Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — did much better at its hearing last week. Capitol Hill sources say the Congressional staffs of both legislative committees are well armed with information on the financial scandal at USA Swimming that underlies the sex scandals: the way the group shifted assets and used an offshore reinsurance operation to hide assets that were exposed to civil lawsuit abuse claims.
Let’s see what Ehekircher’s June 25 meeting brings.
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