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SLOC weighs ethnic efforts

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Last July, Mitt Romney said he had a "wake-up call." Romney, president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics, saw the need for more ethnic diversity in planning and carrying out the Games.

This July, he's calling together ethnic minority leaders to let them know he hasn't hit the "snooze" button.

"We've made the effort to open our doors and to involve each dimension of the fabric of our community," he said. A diversity recruitment meeting was scheduled for Friday after press time, but Romney took a moment Thursday to outline the agenda for the gathering.

"We wanted to make our internal environment friendly to all minorities, we wanted to increase our hiring of qualified ethnic minorities on our staff, and we wanted to increase our outreach to minorities who could be volunteers," he said.

To carry out its initiatives, SLOC divided its outreach eight ways: Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, gays and lesbians, seniors and the disabled.

When asked about outreach efforts among the gay and lesbian community, Romney said gays and lesbians "have been pleased with our recruitment of volunteers," though he stressed no one is ever asked to divulge his or her sexual preference on applications.

Romney said SLOC began its diversity push by having two members of the board, who were members of ethnic minorities, interview all the minority staff and a number of non-minority staff members and file a complete report about attitudes and concerns.

"The reviews came back very positive," Romney said. "There were some areas of suggestion that were made. And we've taken corrective action where it's been possible."

SLOC has also met with ethnic leaders to identify ways to contact individuals in their communities. Last year SLOC took some criticism for not using minority media outlets. Romney said that has changed now. He also said a minority recruiting director has been hired.

To bolster his claims of change, Romney said that from July 2000 to July 2001, the number of ethnic minority employees went from 29 to 93. In the senior ranks, the number has gone from five of 65 senior officials to seven of 81.

"These figures are close to reflecting the Utah population of minorities," he said.

Several minority leaders, including Patrick Salazar, director of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, were withholding comment until after Friday's meeting.

Others were less reticent.

Last July, attorney Mike Martinez said, "All contracts that mean money have been given out years ago and all senior employment positions have been filled for years with white males."

This July, he's sounding much the same note.

"Mitt Romney has the power, and he does what he thinks is best," Martinez said. "I know he has to worry about funding and about pulling things off. And that doesn't include minorities. The fact remains that whenever there's an outreach program, it has to do with bringing people in to sing and dance. It's not about training."

When told that Martinez believes the "wake-up call" came after many high level positions had already been filled, Romney simply responded, "He's right."

E-MAIL: jerjohn@desnews.com