by Irvin Muchnick
As we’ve been chronicling, a Florida swimming parent couple, J.P. and Carolyn Cote, have been trying for almost a year and a half to get USA Swimming to deal seriously with their complaint that they saw Alex Pussieldi inappropriately touching an early teen or preteen boy swimmer on deck at a meet in Plantation, Florida, in 2012.
Safe sport director Susan Woessner and coordinator Liz Hoendervoogt – partners in finding no crime with passive Plantation detective Robert Mazer – did nothing about the Cotes’ core complaint. But there, at least, the swimming executives admitted as much to the accusers.
Not so with a second complaint lodged in March 2013. This chain of non-events hits the sour spot of the sport’s malevolent culture just as surely as sex offenses themselves: failure to respond to the charge that Pussieldi engaged in reprisals against the Cotes for a report of abuse made in good faith.
Specifically, the couple got a letter from Pussieldi’s lawyer, threatening them with a defamation lawsuit, and their family was trailed and photographed by people they believe to have been private investigators hired by Pussieldi.
That J.P. and Carolyn are that rare breed – made of strong stuff, determined to speak out about sex abuse, and undeterred by Pussieldi’s bullying – doesn’t change the fact that retaliation must be stamped out, firmly and immediately, whenever it occurs. Yet Woessner and Hoendervoogt did not acknowledge receiving the second, clearly articulated and documented complaint.
This week the Cotes decided to follow up. Here’s the full text of J.P.’s newest letter to Woessner:
“In November 2012, we filed a complaint with your office against a coach member (Alex Pussieldi) pursuant to USA Swimming regulations 305.1 and member obligations as set forth is section 306.1.
The following March we contacted your office again to bring forth a second violation by the same coach of 306.2 We were made aware the USA Swimming’s position to our initial complaint was that it was made in good faith which made us immune from reprisal or sanction under 306.3 We were also told that our new complaint under 306.2 would be looked into.We were asked to provide your office with a copy of the threatening correspondence from Pussieldi; which was done right away. We also informed your office that during the winter age group Championship which had taken place the previous week-end; we were followed on deck by what appeared to be some kind of security staffers (non USA Swimming members) and our family was photographed many times by a third person working with the other two. In our opinion this was a pathetic and amateurish attempt at intimidation.
As of this day we still await a response from your office with a resolution of the 306.2 complaint we made.”
That was a taste of J.P.’s voice. Shortly, we’ll give you a piece of Carolyn’s mind, as well, the form of a February 2013 email to Hoendervoogt.
Meanwhile, 17 months after the Plantation incident, 13 months and counting since Pussieldi tried to strike back against the Cotes, let’s see if Woessner and Hoendervoogt can take a pause from pushing papers long enough to say word one about their apparently useless anti-retaliation clause – conduct code section 306.2.