Questions for State of Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman — USA Swimming’s Co-Client at Denver’s Ground Floor Media PR Firm

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August 8, 2013

by Irvin Muchnick


We’ve introduced you to Ground Floor Media, a well-connected Denver public relations firm. This is Colorado Springs-based USA Swimming’s “partner” in a $100,000-$200,000 — undoubtedly soon to be multimillion-dollar — campaign to sell its efforts to rid the sport of coach sexual abuse (while at the same time arguing that the existing problem is both exaggerated and not its responsibility).

I thought I’d ask another entity to weigh in on these matters: the Office of Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman.

I have one obvious reason for doing so and one less-obvious one. You see, the Office of Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman is, like USA Swimming, a client of Ground Floor Media.

Now, it is not intuitively obvious why a child protection ombudsman needs to synthesize “strategic communications, digital & social media strategy, crisis communication & reputation management.” According to the annual report for the office’s first year of operations (the fiscal year ending in June 2012), nine percent of its expenses went toward  “marketing.”

But, hey, what do I know about this stuff? If the corporate citizens of Ground Floor helped the child protection ombudsman design catchier billboards reaching out to higher volumes of abuse victims, and if some of them connected with support and counseling resources as a result, then good on everyone. The annual report says the ombudsman had “introductory or general information interviews in Fall 2011 with the Denver Post, Huffington Post, The Villager, Pueblo Chieftain, Westword, and Univision. Other non-initiated media interviews have occurred with Channel 7, Fox 31, and the Colorado Springs Gazette.”

There were also 227 Facebook likes and 77 Twitter followers.

Shame on any of us for thinking the ombudsman’s own public information officer might have accomplished as much without the steady professional guidance of Ground Floor Media.

Also according to the annual report, the ombudsman received 156 contacts in its first year of operations. “Twenty‐one of these contacts address systemic issues, while the remaining 135 deal with reviews of specific cases. Five reviews were elevated to the level of investigation.”

In addition, Colorado taxpayers can take great pride in the office’s “education and outreach” and punctual “monthly reporting about the development of the office and other emerging issues.”

Concussion Inc. is posing the questions below to Dennis G. Goodwin, who in May succeeded the founding ombudsman, Becky Miller Updike.

Your correspondent searched, high and low and in vain, for a phone number with a live voice that would provide an email address or a fax number for a media inquiry. I have sent this post to Ground Floor Media’s senior director of communications, Gil Rudawsky, whose portfolio includes trolling Tim Joyce and me online, and in general disparaging the work of “personal bloggers.” (It seems that everyone is cool, however, with “impersonal bloggers.”)

Since the ombudsman’s office is a state public agency, I presume that Goodwin will feel obliged to answer these questions. This would be in marked contrast with its fellow Ground Floor client USA Swimming. That 501(c)(3) non-profit, enabled by 1978 Congressional legislation, launders paper losses from its Barbados-based captive reinsurance subsidiary to help offset paper profits from the parent organization — the better to protect the high-six-figures annual pay of CEO Chuck Wielgus, as well as the salaries of assorted henchmen and -women. Plus, of course, Ground Floor’s modest fees. But USA Swimming, on the advice of Ground Floor, only engages “legitimate” media.

The questions to Chief Ombudsman Goodwin:

1. Does Ground Floor Media work for your office on a pro bono basis? If not, please disclose the fees paid to Ground Floor, by year.

2. Do you feel any discomfort in sharing PR services with a group that has been described in my writings, and by others, as an institution surpassed in volume and proportion of documented sexual abuse only by the Catholic Church? Please explain.

3. Do you agree with the lobbying efforts of USA Swimming and the Catholic Conference (alone on that side of the issue, so far as is known) to oppose a bill in the California legislature, SB 131, to soften statute of limitations requirements on civil lawsuits by abuse victims? Please explain.

4. Are you aware that in recent years USA Swimming terminated the employment of two members of its executive staff, because of sexual misconduct, without public announcements? See:

* “Helpful Pat Hogan, USA Swimming Club Development Director — Always at the Ready With a Job Reference for a Sex Abuser,”

* “USA Swimming Pedophile Will Colebank’s 2007 Arrest Report,”

5. If your answer to No. 4 is “no,” will you use this opportunity to make a statement to Colebank’s victims and offer the services of your office?

6. Will you retweet this post?

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick