Wounded Warrior Project Execs Fired After Scandal

| by Michael Allen
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Wounded Warrior Project chief executive officer, Steven Nardizzi, and chief operating officer, Al Giordano, were terminated by the board of directors on March 10.

The WWP was founded to help veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but CBS News reported ni March that the charity spends 40 to 50 percent of its income on non-veteran expenses, including $26 million on fancy employee conferences in 2014 alone.

The WWP has reportedly raised more than a billion dollars from donors since 2003. CBS News notes more than 40 former employees said the charity's spending had gotten out of control; a pattern that allegedly began after Nardizzi became the CEO in 2009.

"If your only fixation is spending the most on programs, that's feeling good, but not necessarily doing good," Nardizzi stated defending the charity's spending.

Eric Millette, a retired army staff sergeant, worked for the charity for two years as a motivational speaker, but finally quit over the spending.

"You're using our injuries, our darkest days, our hardships to make money so you can have these big parties," Millet told CBS News.

"I'll be damned if you're gonna take hard-working Americans' money and drink it and waste it, instead of helping those brave men and women who gave you the freedom to walk the face of this earth," Millette added.

"A lot of the warriors I saw needed mental health treatment," an unidentified former employee added. "They don't get that from Wounded Warrior Project."

Another unidentified former employee of the WWP said, "It was extremely extravagant. Dinners and alcohol and and, just total excess. It's what the military calls fraud waste and abuse."

Captain Ryan Kules, the director of Alumni for the WWP, denied that the charity spent excessively on conferences or booze.

"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," Kules told CBS News.

However, some donors, such as Fred and Dianne Kane, are outraged.

"I feel like I am representing all these people who have donated over the years, all these seniors over 65 sending $19 month, all these people on fixed incomes," Fred told CBS News. "If no one is going to talk about this right now and it has to be me, then it has to be me."

"Hearing that there was this waste of money, donor dollars that should have been going to servicemen and women that were injured, and that it was spent on their having a good time, it's a real disappointment," Dianne added.

The WWP released a statement on March 10 that said in part: "WWP’s most recent audited financial statement, which is based on application of established accounting principles, states that WWP spends 80.6 percent of donations on programming. Some of the organizations that measure spending at charitable organizations disregard the established accounting principle of joint cost allocation known as SOP 98-2 that WWP uses to calculate its program spending..."

However, CBS News reported that the WWP includes "promotional items, direct response advertising and shipping and postage costs" in the 80 percent. Once these expenditures are removed, charity watchdogs claim only 54 to 60 percent actually helps veterans.

According to charity watchdog Daniel Borochoff, the WWP has a $248 million surplus.

The WWP press release also stated: "According to WWP’s most recent Form 990, of the approximately $26 million that was spent on conferences and events between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014, approximately 94 percent (or approximately $24,392,000) was associated with program services delivered to Wounded Warriors and their families. "

However, the release doesn't say exactly what these "program services" were.

The WWP release adds, "However, the review also 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."

Sources: CBS News (2), Wounded Warriors Project via Scribd / Photo credit: Wounded Warrior Project/Wikimedia

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