Perhaps not so strangely, the letter that eventually found its way to KTVX reporter Chris Vanocur, igniting Salt Lake City’s Great Olympic Bid Scandal, came from Tom Welch’s former secretary. In a Dec. 11 Salt Lake Tribune story, Olympic trustee Ken Bullock and the late Dave Watson, a US West lobbyist and Welch confidant, are flushed out as the evil-doers who reportedly were seeking “dirt” on Dave Johnson.
Watson, of course, can’t answer the allegation. Bullock says that although he had a copy of the letter, he didn’t leak it to news media. The web of intrigue also entangles Brian Hatch, former Mayor Deedee Corradini’s deputy, who denies involvement.
The unsigned draft signaling the end of payments to a relative of an African IOC member was attributed to Johnson. The Tribune cites federal investigators as saying that former Welch secretary Stephanie Pate told them that Bullock and Watson pressured her to give them the document because they wanted dirt on Johnson. It is believed that Welch supporters were out for payback after what they saw as something of a palace coup led by Johnson and Frank Joklik to oust Welch from the Salt Lake Olympic committee.
Clearly, no one knew that Vanocur’s report on Nov. 24, 1998 concerning the letter would touch off a scandal that would engulf Salt Lake City and International Olympic officials.
The events surrounding the leaking of the letter reveal something of a Shakespearean Roman Senate with plots, counter-plots and plenty of backstabbing. The fact that the Trib’s Dec. 11 story was leaked to the morning paper to facilitate a certain spin in an effort to counter City Weekly writer Lynn Packer, who had uncovered it a week earlier, reflects that the skullduggery is ongoing.
Another irony of the Trib’s Dec. 11 report is that the letter—or at the very least, the information in the letter—was shopped to The Salt Lake Tribune over two years ago by Welch supporters. The Trib apparently was asleep at the switch. That information also was shopped to KUTV’s Rod Decker, who has said publicly that he dropped the matter after former Salt Lake Olympic spokesman Tom Korologos told him there was no truth to it.
That Welch and Johnson, estranged by petty vindictiveness during the Olympic bid, had to join forces to defend themselves of the criminal indictments, continues the irony. They had to hang together, as Mark Twain might have said, or surely they would have hung separately.
According to polls, most Utahns believe that Welch and Johnson did not act without the knowledge of Salt Lake Olympic management committee when they spent $1 million on gifts and cash payments to win the 2002 Winter Games. The so-called SLOC ethics panel report that acted as a blueprint for the federal indictments has been criticized as a whitewash designed to hang Welch and Johnson out to dry. At this point, we might wonder how much of that perception is based on leaks and spins by the one-time Olympic defendants and their supporters.
When federal Judge David Sam threw out the indictments against Welch and Johnson last month, it was hailed by the Tribune and the Deseret News as the end of the scandal. That may have been wishful thinking.