From Fox News.
The two top executives of the Wounded Warrior Project — among the largest veterans charities in the country — were fired Thursday after an investigation into accusations of lavish spending on parties, hotel and travel, according to a statement released on behalf of the embattled organization.
Wounded Warrior Project’s CEO, Steven Nardizzi, and COO, Al Giordano, were fired by the charity’s board amid criticisms about how it spent more than $800 million in donations over the last four years. The development was confirmed by Abernathy MacGregor, a public relations firm hired to represent the veterans charity.
“To best effectuate these changes and help restore trust in the organization among all of the constituencies WWP serves, the Board determined the organization would benefit from new leadership, and WWP CEO Steve Nardizzi and COO Al Giordano are no longer with the organization,” the statement said.
The statement also said a preliminary financial audit found 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.”
The charity came under fire after an earlier CBS News investigation in January revealed large amounts of spending on administration, meetings, and travel.
Nonprofit watchdog “Charity Navigator” says Wounded Warrior Project spends just 60 percent of its budget on veterans. The Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation provides more than 98 percent to veterans. Charity Navigator also assessed that Wounded Warrior’s total revenue for 2014 was well over $340 million.
Army Staff Sergeant Erick Millette, who returned from Iraq in 2006 with a bronze star and a purple heart, told CBS News at the time he admired the charity’s work and took a job with the group in 2014 but quit after two years.
“Their mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors, but what the public doesn’t see is how they spend their money,” he said.
Millette said he witnessed lavish spending on staff, with big “catered” parties.
“Going to a nice fancy restaurant is not team building. Staying at a lavish hotel at the beach here in Jacksonville, and requiring staff that lives in the area to stay at the hotel is not team building,” he told CBS News.
According to the charity’s tax forms obtained by CBS News, spending on conferences and meetings went from $1.7 million in 2010, to $26 million in 2014, which is the same amount the group spends on combat stress recovery.
Two former employees, who were so fearful of retaliation they asked that CBS News not show their faces on camera, said spending has skyrocketed since Steven Nardizzi took over as CEO in 2009, pointing to the 2014 annual meeting at a luxury resort in Colorado Springs.
“He rappelled down the side of a building at one of the all hands events. He’s come in on a Segway, he’s come in on a horse,” one employee told CBS News.
About 500 staff members attended the four-day conference in Colorado, which CBS News reported cost about $3 million.
It took months of scrutiny and outrage before these two assholes were fired. They didn’t have the decency to resign.
Nardizzi certainly thought big: According to the Internal Revenue Service reports, the charity took in $800 million over the past six years, while also paying some of the highest salaries, to many more people, than other major nonprofits. Nardizzi earned $496,415 annually and Giordano $397,329, while at least 10 others took in more than $160,000 each for the year ending in September 2014, according to the nonprofit’s Form 990 filings.
Compensation accounted for $32 million, or 13 percent of the group’s spending that year. Meanwhile, the group’s reserves rose to $248 million, mainly held in investments. Charity watchdogs say it’s OK to keep a rainy day fund, but the money should go as much as possible to the mission.
……The group’s statement Thursday said its most recent audited financial statement shows 81 percent of donations were spent on “programming,” not fundraising. The statement cited a “joint allocation” accounting rule that enables nonprofits to classify fundraising as a service to clients if the event or material also is “educational” and includes a “call to action” beyond simply appealing for money.
……Charitywatch.org says Wounded Warriors spent just 54 percent on programs rather than overhead, for a C rating.
“The board needs to look hard in the mirror and ask how things got so out of hand for so long,” Dean Zerbe, a former senior counsel for the U.S. Senate finance committee who did extensive oversight of charities. “Every dollar that is spent by WWP on perks and parties is a dollar that isn’t being spent to help a veteran or a veteran’s family.”
They ran it like their own personal business instead of an organization focused on committing as much funds as possible for the medical care and rehabilitation of disabled veterans.
They misappropriated millions of donated dollars meant for wounded warriors. They need to be prosecuted.