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Will Garff be chair of SLOC board?

Gov. Mike Leavitt will attempt to reassure Utahns next week that the 2002 Winter Games are in good hands and deserve their support despite the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's problems.

Also, several sources said the governor and Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini have compromised on Bob Garff as their choice for the chairmanship of the SLOC board of trustees.Leavitt will address the Olympics issue on his regular monthly call-in radio program carried on stations throughout the state, including KSL and KALL, from 6-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 8.

He'll also speak to members of the SLOC board of trustees at their meeting on Oct. 9.

"I see the Olympic Games as being among the most important events that have ever occurred in our state," the governor said. "We're defining the 21st century for Utah . . . It's something I take very seriously."

Last Saturday, Leavitt sat down with SLOC Chief Executive Officer Frank Joklik, U.S. Olympic Committee Executive Director Dick Schultz and state and local government leaders to come up with a plan for fixing the Games' image.

"We basically talked about things that would be important to in the near future to restore confidence in the organizing committee," Schultz said. "It's mostly perception. You are what you are perceived to be."

Olympic organizers have been in the news for months, since former SLOC President Tom Welch resigned, pleaded no contest to a charge of domestic abuse and received $1 million severance package.

They've fought over who should take over the job of running the $1 billion-plus event, giving the job to SLOC Chairman Frank Joklik without a promised national search.

The change in leadership caused the two top financial officers of the Games to step down, as well as the governor's first choice for the watchdog job of state Olympic coordinator.

Yet to be announced is who will replace Joklik as chairman of the SLOC board of trustees. That's up to Leavitt and Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini, who disagree over the role of the chairman.

They may have compromised on Garff, a former Utah House speaker who owns automobile dealerships. Garff's involvement with the Olympics is as the chairman of the SLOC panel empowered to investigate ethics complaints.

Meanwhile, legislative leaders have started raising questions about how much control they should have over the Games since the state agreed years ago to indemnify Salt Lake City against any losses.

House Speaker Mel Brown, who said he'll participate in the governor's radio address, said he'd like to give the organizing committee a chance to prove itself before lawmakers consider creating a new oversight panel.

"If we're confident what's happening is in the best interests of the citizens of this state, I don't see a need," Brown said. "But if the lack of confidence continues, I see a need for legislation to provide greater oversight."

The USOC is already planning to play a larger role. Schultz said the Colorado Springs-based organization will set up a coordination commission to help oversee preparations.

The commission, similar to what the International Olympic Committee is already doing, will send experts in areas such as housing and transportation to Salt Lake City to work with organizers.

"Our interest is we're in this for the long haul, and we want the Salt Lake Games to be the best ever," he said. "Hopefully people will view us as a stabilizing force and not as someone who's going to come in and take over."