In January, we told you about the CBS report that exposed the lavish spending habits of top executives at the Wounded Warrior Project. Thursday the charity’s board voted to fire CEO, Steven Nardizzi, and COO, Al Giordano after their meeting in New York City.
The Wounded Warrior Project has raised over a billion dollars since it was founded in 2003. Over just the last 4 years alone, the charity brought in over $800 million. However, stories of lavish spending on staff retreats and other costs didn’t sit well with donors nor hurting veterans.
It has been reported that the board received preliminary results from the financial and audits today but said more investigating will continue. The board is currently looking at a number of retired senior military officials to take control of the charity.
Here is some background on the events that lead up to this firing:
According to public records, the Wounded Warrior Project spends only 60% of the donations it receives on services benefiting wounded vets. This stands in stark contract to charities such as the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service of Fisher House whose figures stand over 91%.
The center of the controversy is CEO Steven Nardizzi who has seen this non-vet related spending skyrocket since he took over in 2009.
In fact he has overseen spending on meetings and conferences skyrocket from $1.7 million in 2010, to $26 million in 2014. These meetings are billed as “team building,” but former employees and participants say something much different.
One such participant, Army Staff Sergeant Erick Millette, said spending on staff was out of control:
“Let’s get a Mexican mariachi band in there, let’s get maracas made with [the] WWP logo, put them on every staff member’s desk. Let’s get it catered and have a big old party…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,”
WWP’s Director of Alumni, Ryan Kule, said in response:
“It’s the best use of donor dollars to ensure we are providing programs and services to our warriors and families at the highest quality…Like I said, it’s to make sure we are aligned and can build as a team. Be able to be able to provide the best quality services.WWP and those donor dollars trained me to speak and be a voice, and that’s exactly what I’m doing”
This move will help appease those calling for major reform within the organization but will they select the right leader to guide the charity into the future? Share your thoughts and picks for who should be the next CEO in the comments below!