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.”
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.
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.