USATF President Vin Lananna visits with Craig Poole before San Diego meeting.
Then-USATF President Vin Lananna visits with Craig Poole before San Diego meeting in October 2017. Photo by Ken Stone

Nearly a year after his removal as elected president of USA Track & Field, Vin Lananna is plotting a comeback via a formal grievance with track’s national governing body.

Lananna’s main lawyer said the former Oregon track coach and TrackTown USA president will challenge the USATF board over its Feb. 18, 2018, decision to put him on “temporary administrative leave.”

“We believe our position under the USATF Bylaws and applicable corporate law are very strong,” Mark Lambert said late Wednesday night. “Our primary intent has been to have a constructive meeting with the newly constituted USATF board.”

Attorney Lambert, of Redwood City, said a January meeting had been promised, but USATF leadership moved it to late February.

“In light of that schedule change, we had no choice but to ask [interim President Michael] Conley for USATF’s agreement to extend the one-year deadline for the grievance so that we could engage in the meeting without the need to file a grievance.”

But Conley denied that request, he said, leaving Lananna “no choice but to file in advance of the one-year anniversary of the disputed resolution.”

Lananna and his lawyers still look forward to the February meeting “and very much hope that it is constructive,” Lambert told Times of San Diego.

Lananna, 66, was elected president by acclamation in late 2016, but the board cited “potential conflict of interest concerns” over a federal probe of how the 2021 IAAF World Championships were awarded to Eugene, Oregon, in 2015.

“USATF has no reason to believe TrackTown and/or Mr. Lananna have done anything wrong and understand that they have been told that they are not a target of the investigation,” USATF board chair Steve Miller said at the time. (Miller has since left the board.)

Lananna — an associate athletic director at the University of Oregon — has said he was interviewed only once by the Department of Justice.

Lananna’s grievance would have to be filed by Friday. USATF gives members a year to complain to their association or the national office in Indianapolis.

Earlier Wednesday, interim leader Conley declined to comment “about a grievance procedure that has not yet been filed.” But he said: “We will address Vin’s administrative leave at our board meeting during the [USATF] Indoor Championships.”

Conley said Lambert is listed as Lananna’s counsel with David Greifinger as co-counsel.

Attorney Greifinger of Pacific Palisades, long involved in USATF politics, neither confirmed nor denied a grievance.

But Tuesday he told Times of San Diego via email: “I am holding back on public comments until after the [USATF] board meeting.”

Becca Gillespy Peter of Washington state, a USATF activist and meet organizer, said: “I don’t have anything to share at this time, sorry.”

But on a Facebook group she moderates, Peter posted last week: “It is time to reinstate Vin Lananna,” linking to an Oregonian newspaper story on the case.

The next scheduled board meeting is Feb. 23 in Staten Island, New York.

Times of San Diego also has been told that Lananna was planning an open email letter to USATF membership.

At December’s USATF annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, the board signaled a willingness to resolve the Lananna issue in January but never met. As volunteer president, Lananna had been a member of the board until his removal.

He was replaced as president by board chair Conley, an Olympic champion in the triple jump.

In a letter to USATF members posted Jan. 14 on Facebook, Conley said: “After reviewing the timeline for board activity in early 2019, including the new board of directors’ orientation and the February 23 board meeting, I made the decision that it is impractical to have a special meeting in between this time.”

Conley said new board members would have to travel three times in 30 days and the entire board twice in a couple of weeks.

“Attempts to coordinate schedules would be difficult and the expense of such would be imprudent,” he wrote.

Conley said he phoned Lananna about “challenges with the timeline” and reasons for delaying until the February board meeting.

“I want you, our membership, to be confident that we will give this topic the full attention it deserves at our Board meeting on February 23,” he wrote.

USATF’s grievance process is laid out in bylaws and summarized in an FAQ.

“The complaint must allege that a party has violated USATF’s Bylaws or Operating Regulations, the Sports Act, the IAAF eligibility rules, or had engaged in conduct detrimental to the best interests of Athletics or USATF,” says the FAQ. “The complaint must state factual obligations in concise, numbered paragraphs.”

Then the grievance goes to a mediator, appointed by the national office. If it isn’t resolved, it goes to a National Athletics Board of Review panel within three months.

The panel includes appointees by chairs of the Law & Legislation Committee and Athletes Advisory Committee and approved by the USATF president. Any panel member can be challenged. An “adverse” decision can be appealed.

During his shortened term as president, Lananna went on a national “listening tour” to dozens of USATF associations, including San Diego’s.

At North Park’s Milestone Running, he said a goal was to build USATF’s 130,000 membership into a million strong — especially as the Los Angeles Games near in 2028.

“Shame on us if we don’t capitalize” on the attention that major events like the Oregon IAAF world meet bring to the sport, Lananna said.

Updated at 10:35 p.m. Feb. 13, 2019