How Broad Are The Legal Powers Of The USATF CEO?

In May, USA Track and Field announced that it had suspended its entire Youth Executive Committee. While mostly out of the public eye of track fans, youth track is a huge portion of USATF; the Executive Committee ultimately controls the massive, nation-wide web of youth USATF track meets that culminate in youth indoor and outdoor national championships.

In a publicly filed court document, USATF CEO Max Siegel says that actually, the board voted 11-1 to allow him to suspend the committee, and that he then invoked USATF bylaw 12-A-9 and suspended them. You can read that document below this story.

The Executive Committee says that Siegel's actions were in violation of USATF bylaws and federal law.

The committee was suspended (and ultimately kicked out of USATF) over slow-rolling meet registration software that they say was not prepared for the demands of youth meets. USATF signed a deal with Athletic.net at the beginning of the year. After several meets and their volunteer staffs struggled with using Athletic.net to register their athletes, the Youth Committee circulated a petition and video that essentially told USATF feeder meets that they didn't have to use Athletic.net yet because it was faulty.

For that, the entire 13-person Youth Executive Committtee was suspended, kicked out of USATF, and ultimately sued by USATF for tortious interference. (Tortious interference is basically a third party stopping two parties from performing under a contract; USATF claims that the Youth Committee got in the way of its contract with Athletic.net.)

After USATF filed its suit against the Youth Executive Committee, the members of the committee filed a counterclaim, and the documents in those suits are public record. One of those documents is an affidavit submitted by Siegel in which he says that he personally fired the entire committee, and had the authority to do so under USATF article 12-A-9. That article reads that the CEO can "take actions, under the Board's direction, reasonably necessary to protect USATF from liability to third parties or to protect USATF's and the sport's integrity. The CEO may act under this paragraph without first consulting the Board only under extraordinary, time-sensitive circumstances, and shall consult with the President, Board Chair and other appropriate individuals in connection with the action."

That's slightly different than the initial claim that the board suspended the 13 members, but runs into the same legal issues. In a May letter published in Track & Field News, lawyer David Greifinger wrote the suspension/firing was illegal--regardless of its source--under USATF and U.S. Olympic Committee bylaws that guarantee due process. He specifically cites a portion of the Ted Stevens Act--the federal law governing the USOC, which ultimately governs USATF--saying that governing bodies are required to give anyone a hearing before banning them from competitions. He also cites USATF Article 14-E, which states that any penalty imposed by USATF is subject to a grievance hearing before the penalty is actually imposed.

The suspension of the committee did not get a grievance hearing; Greifinger and the 13 committee members claim that is illegal. Siegel's affidavit claims that in extraordinary circumstances, 12-A-9 overrides the Stevens Act and other USATF bylaws. Whether or not that is actually the case will be answered in federal court.


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