Wounded Warrior Project Shedding Top Execs, Petition to Reinstate John Melia

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nardizzi former wounded warrior project ceo

Former CEO Steve Nardizzi. (Photo: Rick Wilson/the Times-Union)

The Wounded Warrior Project leadership is shaking up following reports that the veterans’ charity was overspending on company overhead, with lavish spending on events and high executive salaries. The Wounded Warrior Project, or WWP, has shed its CEO Steve Nardizzi and COO Al Giordano.

With this announcement from the WWP Board of Directors it’s clear that the organization is looking to rebuild their image and address the issues they face. For many donors and supporters, this may be the first of many steps before the WWP is able to reassert itself as a champion of veterans’ causes.

“I would like to thank WWP’s dedicated employees, donors, sponsors and partners who have stood loyally by this organization over the last six weeks while the Board conducted a very comprehensive review of its operations and the allegations that were made,” said Anthony Odierno, chairman of the WWP board. “It is now time to put the organization’s focus directly back on the men and women who have so bravely fought for our country and who need our support.”

The board has also hired on FTI Consulting, an independent forensic accounting firm, to help clear the air–the WWP has even gone so far as to publish their most recent 2013-to-2014 tax records (.pdf).

The results of the forensic accounting review show that the WWP, in their most recent financial statement, spends about 80 percent of their budget on charitable programming, significantly more than the 60 percent that has been previously reported.

That number is still less than what similar veteran’s charities spend on their programming–the Fisher House and the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust both convert over 90 percent of their donations to charitable work–but as of their last financial statement, they’re doing better than many have claimed.

However, the audit did find that some of the organization’s practices were not in-line with their mission and the WWP has pledged to roll back spending on excessive airfare, focusing on economy bookings, and cut back on big-ticket events.

Recently the WWP held an employee gathering at the Broadmoor resort in Colorado. Even though their records show that the organization spent $970,000–a fraction of the $3 million outside estimates–the WWP promises that these events “will be curtailed in the future.”

See Also: Wounded Warrior Project Accused of Partying Away Funds

But scrapping Nardizzi and Giordano might be the one of the most important actions toward rebuilding their image. Steve Nardizzi, in particular, has been a lightning rod for controversy, drawing fire for his ideas about running non-profits like for-profit businesses.

In addition to drawing a large salary from the organization and hosting luxury events for staff and guests, Nardizzi used the WWP as an example of how to run a non-profit company like a for-profit business. Under his leadership, the charity earned money on the side by selling donor information and suppressed “competing” veterans’ charities with similar goals using legal action.

For now, the WWP will be lead by the Office of the CEO, directed by the board and headed by Odierno. One person has come forward as a candidate to replace the ousted CEO and COO: John Melia.

john melia

John Melia (Photo: Change.org)

Melia founded the WWP back in 2003. A veteran himself, Melia served in the Marines and was injured in Somalia and ran the organization until 2010 when he was replaced by Nardizzi, who turned it into the multi-million-dollar charity it is today, reputation notwithstanding.

Melia continues to support the WWP, stating that the actions of the two former executives should not reflect on those who continue to work to improve the lives of wounded veterans. A petition to restore Melia’s position has been submitted to Change.org.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Andrew N. March 22, 2016, 9:13 pm

    WWP spend 58 cents of every dollar on Vets. That means 42 cents of every dollar goes somewhere else. A “good” admin cost, which covers “everything else” in a charity, (salaries, advertising, etc) should be at 12% or less. WWP is at 42%. That’s a rip-off of everyone who gives to what they thought was a great cause. They do “just enough” to have / show “feel good” stories to raise more money. It’s always been a bit of a scam, just now coming to light.

  • J. Will March 22, 2016, 2:13 am

    It is disgraceful that we as a nation can run up a 19 trillion dollar deficit and throw money at every country who comes with their hand out and yet not take care of each and every single one of our service men and women who have sacrificed so much for their/our nation. Shame on you Washington politicians and shame us “We the People” for electing politicians that allow such disrespect to be perpetrated upon those who gave so much and yet asked for so little in return. Our wounded warriors should never be the last to be taken care of-they should be the FIRST to receive anything they require-without the need of any private donations. Charity starts at home. Lets start by taking care of our own first!

  • Mark March 18, 2016, 6:42 pm

    From my point of view, they could do so much more with the money I have given them if they didn’t send another packet (not just a letter) EVERY WEEK. They appear to be sending out more in mailings than I can afford to give them.
    If they just accepted that I have given them what I can afford to, and will give what I can, when I can, they would be ahead a bunch.

  • Bob R March 18, 2016, 11:48 am

    Under the guise of helping veterans, too many so called veteran charities are simply ways to steal money from the public to finance a luxury lifestyle for the very few that run them. Not enough is done to expose them, as they heavily advertise for funds on TV and wide public media spots. Especially when most TV ads are under the $20 limit to avoid being scrutinized. Google any charity for complaints before ever donating to them.

  • Scott Forbus March 18, 2016, 11:29 am

    What people are quick to overlook is how much more aid to veterans that 80% is versus 90% of what the brought in the “old” way.
    Nardizzi has/had the right idea…maximize what your charity can achieve. 80% of $1B is 700% MORE than 90% of $100mil.

  • Occams March 18, 2016, 11:28 am

    Anything involving Sean ‘handjob’ Hannity is sure to be pro-(phony) wars in his shilling for Israel, and a fraud, as is Hannity.

    • Jon Will March 22, 2016, 2:24 am

      What are you talking about??? How did Hannity get into the picture? What does Hannity have to do with Wounded Warriors Project? Go drink some more Kool Aid you pinhead!

  • Mark Cutright March 18, 2016, 10:30 am

    I think what they’re doing as a whole is great, but well before the CEO & other dummy got caught having too much fun, I was very upset to see that they would not do business with firearms and a lot firearms related companies in order to appeal to larger firms that were anti-gun. I know they need the funding and it makes sense financially, but it broke my heart to see such a cool organization compromise on something so fundamental.

    Of course now that they’re cleaning house, maybe we’ll see some changes. Who knows. I wish their organization the best.

  • elloyd tunt March 18, 2016, 9:00 am

    “Melia continues to support the WWP, stating that the actions of the two former executives should not reflect on those who continue to work to improve the lives of wounded veterans.” Yes, the two former executives did steer the ship, but amazingly not much sputter from the other members of the ‘team’ that were reveling in the donor-funded events! And all of the extravgance didn’t just start six weeks ago!

  • mtman2 March 18, 2016, 8:37 am

    Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    Oversight is needed by everyone, which is why WE have a congress.
    Though they’ve abdicated keeping potus in line- neglecting control of OUR nation in the hands of a fool ~!

  • P. Hunt March 18, 2016, 8:21 am

    Steven Nardizzi is a crook. Anybody that earns a six figure salary and excessively spends donations by exploiting hard working men and women that sacrificed themselves to defend our country’s freedom clearly lacks morals. He’s another example of a snake charmer that tricks hard working people out of their money, gets caught, fired, and probably will find another money making scheme to con again. Hopefully people will catch on to his tactics.

  • J B Books March 18, 2016, 7:53 am

    Shaking up the top is a good start. Are they still refusing to accept donations from firearms manufacturers?

    • M. Guano March 18, 2016, 5:15 pm

      “SHED” WTF, SAY “FIRED” OR “TERMINATED” !

      Geee SOMEONE IS CATCHING THEM AFTER THE MONEY IS SPENT.
      NO APPROVAL NEEDED, I GUESS.
      not good enuf! u want money, u change the system, spending limits in place for everyone including the Pres. He asks the Board. the BS stops there and NOW.

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