by Irvin Muchnick
Carolyn and J.P. Cote, USA Swimming members in Florida, have asked safe sport director Susan Woessner for a copy of the “warning letter” she says she sent to Alex Pussieldi last year. Next week Concussion Inc. will have more on that and on the Cotes’ take on Woessner’s various double-jointed claims to them of a closed investigation of Pussieldi … or a reopened investigation … or whatever her letter of May 9 is now spinning.
Meanwhile – and now I’m looking straight at you, United States Congress – let’s look again at the full texts of two recent communications by USA Swimming, below. The first is a leaked February 19 email by Woessner to a coach in Florida. There USA Swimming’s point person for athlete safety is admitting that past passive investigations of Pussieldi were “a wrong” and “we are committed to trying to right” it.
(Or is Woessner only referring to her USA Swimming colleagues’ 2004-05 Pussieldi investigation, not to the one prompted by the Cotes in late 2012 and early 2013? The latter was cut off at the pass by Woessner and her assistant themselves, so it’s hard to tell. And swimming’s sphinx-like chief safety exec won’t elaborate.)
The second text is Woessner’s new letter to the Cotes (also viewable in facsimile form at http://muchnick.net/woessnertocote.pdf). There she claims she (or “it” — USA Swimming) didn’t know there was a complaint against Pussieldi, and had she (or “it”) known, Carolyn and J.P. wouldn’t have had to “request a response over a year later.”
This might have been heartening news – if Woessner’s letter itself hadn’t taken more than a month to compose and send. As it stands, no one should have any confidence that USA Swimming’s new investigation, or new-new or new-new-new one, will have any more substance than the old one or ones.
From: Susan Woessner
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 3:55 PM
Subject: Re: USA Swimming Inquiry
Yes, Nancy Fisher is with USA Swimming, not a reporter. I understand your frustration and I can only offer frustration myself when I review the file and wonder why more was not done then. I can tell you that we are committed to trying to right that wrong now.
I am sitting on a plane taking off shortly – can I call you this afternoon when I land?
Sent from my iPhone
9 May 2014
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Cote,
I am in receipt of your letter dated April 2, 2014 regarding coach Alex Pussieldi.
In your letter you reference a November 2012 complaint filed by you with USA Swimming against Mr. Pussieldi for an alleged violation of Article 305.1. As you allude to in your letter, and as communicated to you in writing in February 2013, there was insufficient evidence of misconduct to move forward with a formal investigation; however, a warning letter was sent to Mr. Pussieldi and your concerns were documented and are maintained in USA Swimming’s files.
Your letter also references what you characterize as a March 2013 complaint by you alleging that Mr. Pussieldi retaliated against you in violation of Article 306.2. USA Swimming has no record of you submitting a complaint of retaliatory conduct against Mr. Pussieldi in March 2013 or any time since. 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. However, we have no record of any communication linking that correspondence to any claim by you of retaliation.
Similarly, USA Swimming has no record of ever being informed that your family was followed and photographed while at a meet in February or March 2013. Please also be assured that had USA Swimming received what it understood to be a complaint of retaliation, it would have been in touch with you promptly, thereby eliminating any need for you to request a response over a year later.
We certainly believe that the concerns you shared with us in November 2012 were made in good faith, and if you were retaliated against for making that report, we will investigate the matter. It would be helpful for you to provide any additional information regarding potentially retaliatory behavior your family experienced. For example, where did the meet at which you were followed and photographed take place and can you recall if there were any additional parties that witnessed the offensive conduct? We will give that information to our outside investigator who will then be in touch with you.
We appreciate you making us aware of these circumstances and welcome your continued cooperation in ensuring that USA Swimming’s rules are followed in order to promote a safe and positive environment for all of our members.
Director of Safe Sport