The U.S. Olympic Committee's policy-making executive committee, in a conference call Thursday night, began the process for seeking a no-confidence vote in Marty Mankamyer, elected last August as its president.
Illustrating the political infighting that has long marked USOC affairs, the executive committee has turned the focus on Mankamyer in the aftermath of Monday's decision to take no action against Chief Executive Lloyd Ward in an ethics-related controversy.
Irate that Mankamyer indicated an intent to resign Sunday but then changed her mind and upset that an inquiry into whether Ward used his influence to help his brother's company bid for a contract for the 2003 Pan American Games was in the press before they knew about it, several key members of the executive committee have made it plain that they want Mankamyer out.
Procedural issues stopped any vote Thursday night.
If enough members of the board write in today to ask for a meeting, one will apparently be scheduled 15 days from now -- with Mankamyer on the agenda.
It remains unclear what impact a no-confidence vote, even if one is taken and passed, would have on Mankamyer's position. It has been suggested by some in USOC circles that only a two-thirds vote of its 120-member board of directors can remove the president -- and then, under what grounds, remains uncertain.
Mankamyer is due to serve as president through 2004. She was elected to serve out the remainder of the term vacated by Sandra Baldwin, who resigned last April after acknowledging a discrepancy in her USOC biography.
Ward has been USOC chief executive since November 2001.
The currents swirling around the USOC have amplified its reputation as an organization given to turmoil, often self-induced. The tumult, officials have said, has damaged USOC credibility and may threaten the sponsorship deals that provide needed funding for U.S. athletes.
It may also invite a review by Congress, a possibility Mankamyer acknowledged earlier Thursday in a speech to the International Sports Summit, an annual trade show in Manhattan devoted to the business of sports.
Congress gave authority for Olympic sports to the USOC in 1978 through what is called the Amateur Sports Act. In "anticipation of a dialogue with Congress," she said, she would be asking one of the USOC's vice presidents to ready a "plan of action."
A USOC ethics board report made public Monday said that Ward had "created the appearance of a conflict of interest" after directing USOC staff to make introductions on behalf of Detroit-based Energy Management Technologies to Pan Am organizers in the Dominican Republic, site of the 2003 Games.
The company had ties to Ward's brother and a childhood friend. No contract has been signed.
The report, however, recommend no disciplinary action, and the executive committee took none.
Mankamyer made no mention of her intent to step down Sunday when speaking Thursday to reporters after her speech at the International Sports Summit. Circumstances surrounding that indication to step down remained unclear and she declined to comment when reached by telephone late Thursday.
Asked earlier Thursday in an impromptu news conference at the trade show if she was feeling any pressure from the executive committee to resign, she said, "I'm very stable. You just can't budge me. I'm here to lead. I'm taking on the challenges as they come."