Mavericks interim CEO Cynthia Marshall hopes to make team 'a model' in response to misconduct

DALLAS -- During a news conference announcing her hire as the Mavericks' interim CEO, Cynthia Marshall outlined three primary areas of focus in her plan to address the franchise's issues: an independent investigation, cultural transformation and operational effectiveness.

Marshall, the former chief diversity officer and vice president of human resources at AT&T, was recruited by Mavs owner Mark Cuban in the wake of Sports Illustrated's investigative story last week exposing rampant sexual harassment allegations against former team president and CEO Terdema Ussery and two domestic violence incidents involving former team website writer Earl K. Sneed.

"I really want to see us as a model of how to respond to this," said Marshall, who described herself as "disgusted" while reading the Sports Illustrated story. "This is going on all around the country. I want us to be a model."

Ussery left the Mavericks in 2015 and had not been replaced as CEO until the hiring of Marshall, who said she will have the opportunity to take the job on a full-time basis.

Sneed was fired hours in advance of the Sports Illustrated story for misleading the Mavericks about the first of his two domestic violence incidents, which resulted in his arrest at the team business offices in 2011. Human resources director Buddy Pittman has been suspended pending the conclusion of the independent investigation.

Cuban deferred to Marshall throughout Monday's news conference and nodded when she indicated that she would have complete autonomy. A statement from the team last week said franchise management was previously unaware of the "scope of these complaints" regarding sexual misconduct, and Cuban declined to comment further about what he knew about the allegations against Ussery, who was the subject of an internal investigation regarding sexual harassment two years before Cuban bought the Mavs.

"All that will come out in the investigators' report, so I'll defer to that," said Cuban, who reached out to Marshall based on the recommendation of AT&T executives. "Cynt will decide what to do at that point."

An independent investigation, including interviews with all current team employees, as well as former employees who are willing to speak with investigators, began last week. It is being conducted by Evan Krutoy, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney's office, and former New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram.

"The purpose of the interviews is to make sure that all issues and allegations are surfaced and addressed," Marshall said. "We need everything to come out. Allegations will be thoroughly investigated, and any required disciplinary action will be administered swiftly, very swiftly."

Marshall, who has twice been honored by Black Enterprise magazine as one of the 50 most powerful women in corporate America, described cultural transformation to mean following through on her plan of "fostering an inclusive and supportive culture in the organization." She vowed to create a culture of respect and fairness for all cultures and genders.

"It's a workplace where there is zero tolerance," Marshall said. "Let me repeat that -- I just covered this with the team this afternoon -- a place where there is zero tolerance for sexual harassment, domestic violence or any type of inappropriate behavior."

The first step in Marshall's plan for addressing operational effectiveness is improving the franchise's employee complaint process.

"Our goal is for the Dallas Mavericks organization to be a great place to work for everyone," Marshall said. "Not for a few people, but for everyone. A place of character and integrity where individuals are held accountable for their actions."

Marshall thanked the women "who raised their voices and told their stories" to Sports Illustrated about the previous issues of sexual misconduct and domestic violence within the organization. She vowed to create a "speak-up culture" within the organization and said she will personally speak to every employee by the end of March.

"I am determined, Mark is determined, that the Dallas Mavericks will be the standard. We're laying out a vision that says by 2019, the Dallas Mavericks will be the standard. We're leading the way in inclusion and diversity," she said.