Mitt Romney Olympic Archive Still Off-Limits

Olympic Documents 'Were Just Destroyed'

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) spent months negotiating its plans for gathering and archiving materials from the games, eventually signing an 11-page "Repository Agreement" with the University of Utah. The agreement, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News, includes a detailed list of documents that would be included in the university's archive. The list includes "written records of SLOC management and departments," "meeting minutes and agendas of the SLOC Board of Trustees," and "other administrative records that document the planning and staging" of the Games.

The Organizing Committee hired a university archivist, Mark Jensen, to gather documents as the Games unfolded, and to compile them into an organized collection that would be turned over to the University of Utah. Within the committee, each department was instructed to send documents and records to Jensen to be preserved. Jensen said in an interview that his work was then reviewed by lawyers to insure that proprietary information – such as how much companies bid for competitive contracts – was removed.

"I was acting under the direction of the legal department," Jensen said.

Not all the records made the cut. Decisions about which documents to submit and which to hold back ultimately were given to an SLOC attorney, and those records were sent to a separate storage site, Jensen said. "My guess is at this point all of those records were destroyed."

Kelly Flint, who was general counsel to the committee, and Bullock both confirmed this, saying the SLOC eventually destroyed any documents that included legally privileged or confidential information, including contracts with vendors and personnel records. "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,"  Bullock said.

Asked about Romney's personal papers, such as correspondence, emails, and appointment calendars, Bullock said he did not think it was likely they were saved.

"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.

The records that survived legal scrutiny were shipped to the university in 2002 and, according to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, were "quite systematically organized" when Jensen turned them over.

Jensen said he provided the university "a box-by-box listing of the materials. Sometimes folder-by-folder listings."

Rogers said the library has worked intermittently over the past decade to try and catalogue the 1,100 boxes of documents, but over the years it never rose to become a top priority. "We have an enormous amount to go through. It just wasn't number one on our plate," she said.

In February, when the university held an exhibition to show off the Olympic archives on the 10th anniversary of the Games, the only items that could be displayed were photographs -- a separate archive that had been organized and prepared for display. The event did not involve opening the documents for public perusal.

Walter Jones, the library's assistant head of Special Collections, said he first realized the library had a problem when a Washington Post reporter called asking for specific documents from the Olympic archive. He said he and Rogers went to see what condition the archive was in and were startled to see it largely un-sorted.

"Basically we could not field his questions," Jones said. "It was embarrassing."

Jones said the library had no intention of trying to block reporters from seeing the Olympic records.

"I think we were just caught unprepared," he said.

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The library now estimates it will have the records open for public review sometime in August. As for how many of the papers will shed light on Romney's stewardship of the Games, that remains unclear. Rogers said she did not expect there would be much. "It's a lot about torch relays, Paralympics, the residences," she said. "I have not seen a whole lot of financial documentation."

Bullock, who has deep ties to Romney through not only the Olympics, but through Bain, and now as a fundraiser for the campaign, said the candidate has every reason to want the record of the Salt Lake Games preserved.

"In another few weeks it will all be totally available," Bullock said. "We've got 1,100 boxes that people can sort through. That's a lot to keep."

Lynn Packer is a freelance journalist based in North Salt Lake, Utah.

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