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Early bid warnings went unheeded

The man who tried to blow the whistle on Olympic bid corruption more than a decade ago said he's frustrated the Utah attorney general didn't prosecute based on information he provided them last year.

Jack Turner, a former bid volunteer and now a video producer in Durango, Colo., confirmed that he was interviewed by the attorney general's chief investigator in January 1999 and that he was the author of a 1989 report to then-Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis that detailed bid irregularities.

Turner told the Deseret News he was ready to cooperate with federal authorities, who have charged former bid leaders Tom Welch and Dave Johnson in connection with the more than $1 million in cash and gifts given to International Olympic Committee members during the bid.

"Give me their number and I'll call them up. I'd love to testify," Turner said, saying he was still emotional about his dealings with the bid committee in the 1980s. He said he was upset that nothing came of his contact with the Attorney General's Office.

"If this thing blows up in Utah's face, they'll get just what they deserve because they knew early on what was going on," Turner said. He said he lost more than $20,000 staging an event during the bid.

A 48-page transcript of his telephone interview by Ronald Miller, the attorney general's chief of investigations, was among a pile of memos, reports and handwritten notes released to reporters Thursday.

The documents reveal titillating details about an investigation by the Utah Attorney General's Office into the Olympic bribery scandal — but it was an investigation that went nowhere.

"It was kind of not productive, both of us doing the same case," Miller said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department said he had no comment about the any cooperation federal investigators may have had with their state counterparts.

Aside from Turner's interview and report, much of the information in the 807 pages collected by the Attorney General's Office has been seen before. But some new details surfaced:

A copy of a check for $5,785.97 made out to and endorsed by Welch from Uniglobe/Great Connections Travel, a Salt Lake travel agency that has apparently gone out of business.

The names of two woman were written in notes about Snow White Escorts, a company whose employees have said at least one IOC member used their services in 1995.

A 21-year-old man, Antonio de Rodriguez, identified in a memo and cryptic notes as having worked for "four months and three days" for the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation in the summer and fall of 1998.

Colonel Antonio Rodriguez is an IOC member from Argentina and has two sons, but it is not clear if the employee was related. State Parks Deputy Director Dave Morrow confirmed that an Antonio Rodriguez was a seasonal employee at Dear Creek Reservoir from 1997 through 1999 but that he had a Social Security number and there was no mention of any foreign affiliation on his hiring forms.

Along with the Uniglobe check is a four-page printout of credit card transactions for the bid committee that includes the names of bid officials, their spouses and children, as well as those of several IOC members implicated in the scandal.

The printout states the bid committee's account total in June 1999 was nearly $180,000. The original check to Welch was requested by federal investigators and appears to have been turned over to them by the Attorney General's Office.

"I don't know what that check means," Miller said. "We had some conclusions, but the evidence was not there to either prove or disprove it. . . . I would warn you not to jump to a conclusion."

According to notes made by investigators, there was no effort to hide the scholarship program set up by the bid committee for the children of IOC members. The program was "well known about the office" and some recipients were even introduced.

Less clear is whether investigators were able to confirm that any bid trustees knew about the cash payments and other transactions alledgedly made to IOC members by Welch and Johnson.

The community and government leaders who oversaw the bid effort have said they had no knowledge of the more than $1 million spent to win the votes of IOC members, according to federal charges filed against Welch and Johnson.

Most compelling may be Turner's allegations that bid irregularities surfaced during Salt Lake City's bid to become the U.S. candidate for the 1998 and 2002 Winter Games, a decision made by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Turner, who once organized the Utah Winter Games, said he was a bid volunteer who advised Welch and others on potential sites for Olympic competition venues. He said he ran up a personal debt of more than $20,000 that took five years to pay off in order to stage a cross-country world cup race intended to impress the USOC before its 1989 decision.

Welch, he told Miller, said "you have to get that cross-country race for us" after hearing that the bid was doomed if Salt Lake's chief competition for the USOC endorsement, Anchorage, Alaska, was able to attract the international race.

Turner said he explained the event was "a huge financial commitment, and the deal was — and this is how stupid I was — is that they said, don't worry, we will take care of the expenses. We will back you up . . . ."

The money, he said, never came and his relationship with the bid committee fell apart.

He repeatedly criticized Welch, saying people came to him "from the day we started bidding for the Games going, 'Tom Welch is so embarrassing.' I mean . . .the funniest thing is — this is the most ironic thing — is we won the bid despite everything we did."

There is a description of a meeting with IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch where "Tom pulls out a gift the first five minutes he ever met this guy . . . It was so embarrassing. I mean and Samaranch didn't even look into the box."

Turner said he didn't know what was in it. "Samaranch was clearly annoyed . . . he just took this thing. He didn't even say thank you. He just turned around, set it on the table behind him and basically said, if you want to have the Olympics, you gotta start doing facilities."

Welch's attorneys did not return calls early today.

Turner also said he authored a report given to DePaulis and provided the investigator with a copy. DePaulis, who after serving as mayor was a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office and is now a state tax commissioner, declined to comment.

The copy of Turner's report, titled, "Utah's Olympic Organization Needs Change," was accompanied by handwritten letter addressed to "Palmer" dated July 27, 1989, just after the USOC decision to give Salt Lake City the nod.

The report says "constant bootlicking" by Welch, Dave Johnson and other bid officials at the time caused USOC officials to term Salt Lake's lobbying tactics as "smoozing."

The pair are described as talking on many occasions "about State and SLC politicians who are 'in their pocket.' The reason they act in an inappropriate manner is because they believe they have so many contacts they can get away with it."

Both the report and the interview refer to a 1988 review of the sports development office once run by Johnson. The review, by the Utah Legislative Auditor General's Office, cited conflicts of interest and inadequate spending controls by the development office.

The Associated Press first petitioned for access to the attorney general's files in September. The Attorney General's Office declined, arguing that the case remained open and making the files public could compromise the investigation and violated confidentiality pledges to witnesses.

But last month, the State Records Committee ordered the documents released, saying that "massive public interest" outweighed investigator's needs for secrecy.

Nevertheless, many of the documents had large redacted sections: names of informants are blacked out and, in some cases, entire pages were blank.


E-MAIL: mtitze@desnews.com ; lisa@desnews.com