by Irvin Muchnick
Concussion Inc. has received a copy of a May 9 postal letter from Susan Woessner, safe sport director of USA Swimming, to Carolyn and J.P. Cote – Florida swimming parents who complained that they witnessed Alex Pussieldi improperly touching a male child swimmer at a meet in Plantation, just outside Fort Lauderdale, in 2012, and that Pussieldi subsequently retaliated against the Cotes by sending a threatening letter from a lawyer and trailing their family with a private detective.
In her letter, Woessner claims no prior knowledge of a complaint by the Cotes that Pussieldi violated Conduct Code Article 306.2 by attempting to intimidate good-faith reporters of an incident of sexual misconduct.
Carolyn and J.P. Cote say Woessner is lying. And she is doing so on the eve of an expected new round of local and national media coverage, tracking that of Tim Joyce and myself, of the multitudinous failures of USA Swimming’s safe sport program. That program was instituted in 2010, with Woessner at the helm, after chief executive Chuck Wielgus was caught giving embarrassingly defensive and inaccurate interviews that year to ABC’s 20/20 and ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
In the letter (a facsimile of which is uploaded to http://muchnick.net/woessnertocote.pdf, with the Cotes’ home address removed), Woessner writes in part: “USA Swimming has no record of you submitting a complaint of retaliatory conduct against Mr. Pussieldi in March 2013 or any time since.”
In the very next sentence Woessner writes: “On March 11, 2013 we received from you a private investigator’s report and a letter to you from Mr. Pussieldi’s attorney regarding a potential defamation claim.” (The private investigator referenced there is one hired by the Cotes.)
Woessner somehow concludes that there was no “communication linking that correspondence to any claim by you of retaliation.”
Here is J.P. Cote’s statement to us:
“Carolyn and I are in agreement that Susan Woessner’s claim in her new letter to us is complete bureaucratic rubbish. She is lying. What she states is both nonsensical on its face and blatantly, willfully false.
“First, Ms. Woessner acknowledges our forwarding the Pussieldi lawyer’s threat letter. Why does she think we did that – for our health? If she was doing her job, she would have jumped on that evidence of illegal retaliation by Pussieldi even without a prompt.
“Second, the fact of the matter is that there was a prompt. Telephone records would establish that Carolyn and I had multiple phone conversations with Ms. Woessner’s assistant, Liz Hoendervoogt. We didn’t just send the investigator’s report and the lawyer’s letter out of thin air. We sent them at Ms. Hoendervoogt’s request. It is beyond disingenuous for Ms. Woessner now to be pretending she did not know our material was submitted as evidence of an attempt by Pussieldi to intimidate us — a clumsy and failed attempt, I might add.”
USA Swimming has a stated policy of not responding to Concussion Inc.’s inquiries. Nonetheless, we are emailing and faxing this article to Woessner, Hoendervoogt, Wielgus, and public relations director Karen Linhart, and requesting answers to two questions:
1. What is your response to the Cotes’ charge that you are lying?
2. Will you release the full content of their March 11, 2013, package to you? (The Cotes state that they grant permission for you to do so.)