Sunday, December 18, 2011

100 Minutes with Chuck: Part 1

On the Tuesday before my meeting with Chuck Wielgus, I couldn't sleep. Saturday morning brought back a lot of bad memories I would rather not relive. There were four of us in the lounge of the Marriot Marquis: Chuck and I with Susan Woessner and my wife Kate. We spoke for roughly an hour and forty minutes, far longer than I expected. If my thoughts before the meeting were tortured, afterwards I almost had too much to process. My opinions about Chuck's actions and leadership are unchanged. In a series of blogs this week, I hope to explain everything as I saw it.

Chuck told someone later that although he thought the meeting went well, he wished he could've gotten me to crack a smile. While proposing the meeting, Susan had expressed her hope that I would feel differently about Chuck once I met him. Chuck spoke frequently of his children, two teenage girls and two older sons.  I had no preconceptions about Chuck personally, but I'm not so naive about the world that I thought only someone monstrous could do what he has done. It's an unfortunate truth that many people who are otherwise considered "good people" can fail to do the right thing. That was part of the comparison I was trying to draw between Chuck and Joe Paterno in a previous blog.

As I mentioned in the comment section of my previous blog, our conversation started long before Saturday. Chuck e-mailed trying to "manage [my] expectations" for what we could discuss. When pressed, Chuck quoted USA Swimming's confidentiality policy. He also made it clear he wanted to say less than it allowed. He also said he wouldn't discuss "personnel", citing "standard business practice". I agreed to respect the confidentiality outlined in the USA Swimming rulebook, and nothing more.

He provided more explanation when we met. He pleaded that, given the ever growing list of lawsuits against USA Swimming and their handling of sexual abuse by coaches, lawyers governed what he could say. Chuck asserted that he wants to engage his critics. He now feels powerless to do so, although he told Kate later that he didn't feel he needed to answer my criticisms anyway.

I decided before the conversation that I wouldn't go in guns blazing. The responses that I got were telling, those given to Kate were far more so. Chuck was not as defensive for Kate's questions. When she asked him whether he was caught off guard by having to deal with the problem of sexual abuse by coaches, he was emphatic that he was. I got the impression that Chuck believes any other person would have done the same: that critics like me are abusing hindsight. Those two responses were part of a theme: Chuck would say something humble and then undermine it. I asked him later whether he thought USA Swimming members had a right to be disappointed in his leadership. He admitted that he felt badly about his performance in the ABC 20/20 interview but followed that up with a defense of why he did not do well. He cited that the 20/20 interview was the only disappointment that the USA Swimming board had in him. (EDIT: Chuck emailed me after reading the blog to inform me that neither he nor the board considered this the only disappointment. 

I hope to explain in the following blogs just how complex the problem is we are facing. I left the meeting feeling no different about Chuck's actions. Whether or not he did not fulfill his legal responsibility as our leader will be decided in the courts and not in this blog. USA Swimming members can judge whether Chuck meets their expectations as a leader of our organization.  Just as with the law, ignorance is no excuse.


  1. how did chuck answer questions, if posed, regarding...

    1. current lawsuits against usa-s?
    2. accustations of impropriety i.e. usa-s insurance company?
    3. "conspiracy", "monopoly" however you would phrase usa-s association with asca/leonard?
    4. questionable ethical behavior by usa-s staff and legal counsel?
    5. outrageous salaries by "top" usa-s staff - weilgus, hogan, busch, schubert (the settlement), mintenko - despite usa-s being a non-profit?

    awaiting with breathless anticipation...

  2. he screwed the pooch on 20/20 and usa-s gave him a raise?! WTF?! time to kill usa-s and start all over.

  3. they continue to fail. their code of conduct doesn't allow them to 'go outside the lines'. I've personally brought to Susan's attention 2 matters that most thinking breathing people would classify as improper behavior. One is the proper use of social media. The situation of a club and HS girls coach who 'follows' porn stars and models fronting for porn sites in his twitter account is a red flag about this coach. Her solution was a non-solution.

    The case of a club practice facility owned by a pedophile with 3 arrests in 30 yrs for sex crimes was not a violation of the code of conduct and Susan couldn't do anything.

    Also brought to her attention was the appearance that not all of a particular clubs fund raisers were being reported. Again, she was 'powerless' to do anything.

    I guess I need to have the States Atty General check them out, but I have little confidence in the legal system in our state since I was slapped with a restraining order by an Asst DA who is the brother-in-law of the pedophile in the pool ownership case...

  4. wow ...a raise!?? WOW!

    chuck is going to jail, raise or not.

    look up psychopathy, this seems familiar.

    Its not just an individual, it is clearly OUR system that is sick.

  5. For Anon,

    The complaints to the Attorney Generals office can be anonymous. What's up with these DA's. I was told by the State Attorney Generals Office to file a report with the local police or DA's office. The police wouldn't take a report because it didn't involve assault or theft and sent me to the DA's office. The DA's office said they were misdemeanors and the police should take the report, but they would not phone the police. The DA said that I should demand the police to take a report (yeah right!). Next, the DA told me to go to the City Attorney because they prosecute misdemeanors, but the city attorney's office may not speak to me because the report is suppose to originate from the police department.
    Next I was told that people are going to think I am crazy unless I do A-Z, including printing out corresponding codes or the police would have to do it. He proceeded to tell me that my kid was better off and why would we want to be associated with a team like this, what am I teaching my child by pursuing the matter, and don't I have better things to do with my time.
    I was reluctant to go, but I wasn't expecting this. He made me feel like I was the criminal.

  6. I am not sure if Chuck is a psychopath, but I do believe that he is out of touch with the membership of USA Swimming. The board is too, if they think that he should still be our CEO. The raise just proves how out of touch the majority of them are.

    Sometimes we need to ask the leadership to "fall on the sword" for the betterment of the organization. Joe Paterno and the Penn State administration certainly has/will. I just don't see what the USA Swimming board and staff see in his leadership. Since his arrival, he has done much good, but he is not a deity. The time has come, and he needs to go.

    With Wielgus gone, the organization can begin to heal. Until that happens, I simply can not respect the dry side of our organization.

  7. abusing hindsight... Wow. How out of touch can an organization be.

    New complaints and improprieties have been brought to their attention without the luxury of hindsight and this organization still refuses to take action.

  8. I keep hoping they are going to put Chuck out of our misery. I have a glimmer of hope they are waiting for the moment when his dismissal will be most effective at diverting the largest possible portion of blame.