Two top executives at the nation’s largest veterans charity were fired on Thursday night.
A CBS News investigation revealed Wounded Warrior Project spends as much as half of its hundreds of millions in donations each year on overhead, including lavish parties. Other veterans charities have overhead costs as low as ten percent.
When we spoke with former Wounded Warrior Project employee Erick Millette in January, he was furious about what he called the charity’s lavish spending at the expense of veterans’ programs.
But his anger has subsided now that the charity’s top two officials, CEO Steven Nardizzi and COO Al Giordano, were fired.
“It feels good. It really does, and I didn’t do it for me. I did it for all the veterans Wounded Warrior Project claims to serve.”
For the first time in years he’s guardedly optimistic about the organization’s future.
“Hopefully with restructuring and revamping of programs and services, they’ll implement some real high impact programs that have tangible results.”
But he also agrees with Fred and Dianne Kane — who raised $325,000 for the charity with golf tournaments — that the ouster is only the first step.
“They need to change the culture, which in my opinion will require significant changes to the executive team. I think they can right the ship, but it’s going to take a lot of effort to build up that goodwill again,” Fred said.
The Melia family — which founded Wounded Warrior Project in 2003 — also weighed in following the firings.
In a statement, they accused Nardizzi of “going so far as to remove any mention of the Melia family from the WWP website” and said that donors “have every right to be angry about the lack of stewardship shown by the immediate past leadership.”
The charity’s board of directors conceded in a statement that “some policies, procedures and controls at WWP have not kept pace with the organization’s rapid growth in recent years, and are in need of strengthening.”
But the board also insisted that a “substantial portion of the donations given to WWP” go to programs and services for wounded warriors.
The board announced that while it searches for a new permanent CEO, Board Chairman Anthony Odierno will temporarily lead a team of executives that will oversee daily operations. Our repeated requests for an interview with Odierno were declined.
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