People searching for insight on how Salt Lake’s 2002 Winter Games operated and how Mitt Romney led the effort may be disappointed when 1,100 boxes of Olympic archives are made public next month, according to the project director.
“I think they will have no answers,” said Elizabeth Rogers, curator of manuscripts at the University of Utah Marriott Library.
The records that the Salt Lake Olympic Committee turned over to the University of Utah do not appear to contain things like meaningful budget documents, internal memos, executive calendars and other records that might shed light on the internal workings of the Olympic organization, Rogers said.
“People suspect that we might have Mitt Romney information in there and that’s not an unreasonable expectation,” she said, but the documents are more focused on the staging of the 2002 Olympics and Paralympics, and don’t reveal much about the people and process that made it happen.
In recent months, researchers and reporters have been clamoring for access to the archives in hopes they might shed light on Romney’s tenure as president and CEO of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, a key element of the Romney narrative during his presidential bid.
But they were turned away because the labor-intensive task of indexing such a vast collection never rose to a high priority and they sat in storage for years.
Over the last four months, fueled by the inquiries and interest, Rogers said seven staffers have been working full-time to inventory the records and create an online index. They expect to complete the task next month.
“There was actual suspicion that they hadn’t been processed for a reason,” she said. “To be honest with you, the only reason they hadn’t been processed was it was so big and was going to take so much time.”
As large as the project is, operational details of the Games will not be included. The Olympic Committee set its own policy on which records should be kept and which should be destroyed.
Romney — who had previously been criticized for failing to preserve records from his term as governor of Massachusetts — was gone from the Olympic Committee before decisions were made on what documents to keep and played no role in the decision-making, according to the Romney campaign.
Mark Jensen, who was hired as the SLOC archivist, said that personnel in each department had the discretion to decide what should be archived. Retention was voluntary, he said.
Records with proprietary information about sponsors, vendors or licensees were destroyed and personnel material was stored separately, Jensen said in an email to The Tribune. Jensen inventoried the remaining records and transferred them to the U.
He said internal memos and budget information could be included in the files, but Rogers said staff has not come across any in the 800 boxes that have been indexed so far by the library — which is named after J. Willard Marriott, a hotel magnate and family friend of the Romneys, who Willard Mitt Romney is also named after.
“Anything we could disclose, of course, we couldn’t destroy that. Anything that had a legal or contractual requirement to be confidential … they were just destroyed,” Fraser Bullock, a longtime friend and business partner of Romney, who took the SLOC helm after Romney left, told ABC News, which reported on the status of the SLOC records Monday.
Bullock told ABC that he doubts Romney saved personal papers or calendars.
“His personal correspondence and his appointment calendar? I didn’t keep mine. I don’t think that’s relevant to the Olympic movement,” he said.
Kelly Flint, who was general counsel to SLOC, said in an email that the archiving of records was done months after Romney and much of the rest of the committee staff had left the organization. Flint said he recalled that the records included meeting minutes, but he is unsure what else might have been archived.
Ken Bullock — no relation to Fraser Bullock — who represented local governments on the SLOC Board, said access to information was difficult even during the run-up to the Games and he’s not surprised that the archives would be missing information.
When he asked for information as a board member from the committee, “99.999 percent of the time I would not be allowed to see it,” and at one point, he said, Romney proposed not allowing board members to see the SLOC budget.
“This took me a long time to figure out,” Ken Bullock said. “I approached it from a public standpoint and my experience [in local government] is having access to things, minutes and so forth, it’s a big deal. But the business people wanted to run it as a business and use government money as seed money and still be able to be more limited and exclusive in who they shared information with.”
There are things like personnel matters that Ken Bullock said should not be released in the archives.
“But big-picture stuff? Absolutely,” he said. “How policies got made, why they got made? Absolutely. Budget documents, budget amendments, priorities of how the money is spent. Absolutely, you should have access to those things.”