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Thursday, December 12, 2019
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Letter to the Editor concerning SafeSport

To: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


I would like to commend you for your headline with respect to the George Morris story.

It does reflect the reality that he was “found…guilty without a trial”.

It doesn’t take much time to get to the heart of the matter:

If George Morris was not afforded opportunity to appear prior to the decision (and as your story reports, he was not warned that there was any investigation), SafeSport (the Center”) violated its own procedures and Code

(https://uscenterforsafesport.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/2019-SafeSport-Code-04.15.19-Hyperlinked.pdf)

(the “Code”) and the Response and Resolution Process

(https://uscenterforsafesport.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Response-and-Resolution-Process-2.pdf) (the”Process”)

It is the apparent failure of the SafeSport organization to follow its own procedures which has raised the hue and cry as to fairness.

 

MORRIS IS either a Participant (as a member of a “member” organization) and/or Respondent (a person who is alleged to have violated the Code), perhaps both as defined by the Process.

Section XI (at Page 21) of the Process sets out the procedure to be followed in the event of allegations of violation of the Code as well as standard of proof.

At Section XI (I)(2) during an Informal Resolution the Respondent is provided “at any time before a matter is final, (to) elect to resolve allegations of Prohibited Conduct by accepting responsibility for a policy violation.” at IX (J) the Parties “to an investigation and arbitration are the Center and the Respondent.

During the investigation, the Claimant and Respondent will have an opportunity to submit information and relevant evidence, to identify witnesses who may have relevant information, and to submit questions that they believe should be directed by the investigator to each other or to any witness.”

Further at (J)(2) "Throughout the resolution process, Claimant(s) and Respondent(s) each have the right to choose and consult with an advisor.”

The procedure winds down with (N) Investigation Report: "A final Investigation Report will be prepared that sets forth the investigator’s findings of fact and may make a recommendation as to whether the Code has been violated.

This report will be shared with the Claimant(s) and Respondent(s) upon issuance of the Decision.

The Investigation Report and any attachments are considered confidential.”

If, in fact, Morris found out about the investigation and results the same time as the press he was not afforded an opportunity to appear before the body.

The fact that the Process specifies that the Respondent may participate suggests that the Respondent has received notice that the investigation is under way.

It appears that this did not happen.

The Center may maintain a publicly-available searchable database of Participants who have been sanctioned by or whose eligibility has in some way been restricted by the Center, the USOC, an NGB, and/or an LAO.

This is what is published at that site

(https://uscenterforsafesport.org/response-and-resolution/disciplinary-database/):

George Morris
Port Saint Lucie, FL
Equestrian
Permanently Ineligible
Sanctions range from written warning to permanent Inegibility.

Factors under consideration in imposing sanctions: Factors relevant to determining appropriate sanctions include, without limitation:
1. The Respondent’s prior history;
2. A pattern of inappropriate behavior or misconduct;
3. The ages of individuals involved;
4. Whether the Respondent poses an ongoing and/or potential threat to the safety of others;
5. Respondent’s voluntary disclosure of the offense(s), acceptance of responsibility for the misconduct, and/or cooperation in the Center’s process;
6. Real or perceived impact of the incident on the Claimant, NGB(s), LAO(s), USOC, or the sporting community;
7. Whether given the facts and circumstances that have been established, continued participation in the Olympic Movement is appropriate; and/or
8. Other mitigating and aggravating circumstances.
Adjudicating Body U.S. Center for
SafeSport
Decision Date 2019-08-05
Sexual misconduct involving minor (subject to appeal / not yet final)
Violation
Any single factor, if severe enough, may be sufficient to justify the sanction(s) imposed.

The Center reserves to itself the right to publish the Decision rendered: "The Notice of Decision is considered confidential, however, the outcome reflected in the Decision—including whether a violation was found, the nature of the underlying misconduct, and any sanctions imposed—is not.”

Sanctions are imposed immediately and the Respondent has five days to request a hearing before an arbitrator.

This is where the real damage is done.

There is no process for a stay while the arbitration goes forward.

The key to the Center’s rapidity of imposing sanctions will be this clause at Section XII (A) (1): "When the allegations involve child sexual abuse, the age of those allegations is not relevant to this determination.”

This is not to diminish the severity of such a charge but when the alleged Code violations occurred from 1968 to 1972 (51 years ago) perhaps we could use a little common sense when the publication of such a decision guts the career of someone who has dedicated his life to the sport (see Factor 4 above: "Whether the Respondent poses an ongoing and/or potential threat to the safety of others.”

So, here we have it: Decision rendered, a life upended, apparently without due process and in flagrant violation of the governing body’s own published procedures.

-Elisabeth Harpham

The Horse of Delaware Valley

Editor: Sara Cavanagh
editor@thehorseofdelawarevalley.com
610-793-1964

Advertising Director: Ginny Jenkins
advertising@thehorseofdelawarevalley.com
610-873-4042

Marketing Manager: Heather Mullen
484-639-7000

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