SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ The U.S. Olympic Committee can pay former executive director Dick Schultz $587,000 in deferred compensation without jeopardizing its tax-exempt status.

Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm for the nonprofit USOC, clarified an earlier position that seemed to suggest Schultz's deal could threaten the USOC's tax-exempt status and cut off the flow of charitable contributions to America's Olympic training program.

Arthur Andersen's initial assessment was misinformed, USOC spokesman Mike Moran said Tuesday.

Moran emphasized that Schultz will collect deferred compensation, not a ``golden parachute'' or arbitrary bonus, for five years of service. The $587,000 is money set aside from a salary for Schultz that grew to more than $500,000 annually.

``I don't know how this story got started,'' Schultz said Tuesday, discounting reports of IRS scrutiny. ``It was just a traditional deferred compensation plan drawn up by a big-five accounting firm under IRS guidelines.''

Moran sought to clarify the payment as the USOC's all-volunteer board gathers in Washington, D.C., to hold a contested election on Sunday to replace Norm Blake, the corporate chief who succeeded Schultz just nine months ago. Blake is resigning after making an aborted effort to streamline the USOC.

Arthur Andersen offered a professional opinion the USOC received on Monday that cleared the way for Schultz to receive his money on Jan. 1, 2001. A copy of the two-paragraph opinion was released to The Associated Press.

``It is our conclusion that Mr. Schultz's compensation will not threaten the USOC's tax-exempt status,'' wrote Stephen V. Conrad of Arthur Andersen's Denver office.

It's unknown whether the IRS ever took an interest. The USOC and Schultz would have to file disclosure waivers before the Internal Revenue Service could comment, IRS spokesman Anthony Burke said in Washington on Tuesday.

Last May, Schultz became chairman of a Kansas City-based consulting firm, Marketing Associates International Sports.