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Wounded Warrior fires tops execs over spending scandal

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The Wounded Warrior Project has been under fire for lavish spending.

 

 

The Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit that uses donor money to help veterans with military-related injuries, fired its chief executive officers and chief operating officer in response to a growing scandal over the group’s perceived frivolous spending on travel and resort events.

 

WWP, facing public outrage over reports of money mismanagement, hired an outside forensic accounting team to conduct a review of its records. And among the findings, CBS News reported: “WWP spends 80.6 percent of donations on programming … [and] of the approximately $26 million that was spent on conferences and events between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014, approximately 94 percent … was associated with program services delivered to Wounded Warriors and their families,” the organization put out, in a written statement.

 

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The review also found this: “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.”

 

But spending on conferences and other similar events rose from $1.7 million in 2010 to $26 million by 2014. At the same time, the group was only spending between 40 percent and 50 percent of its revenues directly on veterans’ causes.

 

Some of the changes the organization is making include tightening its travel policies, as well as its rules regarding what employees and directors may spend for training.

 

“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,” WWP said.

 

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One former WWP employee detailed how spending on some employee conferences would go, telling CBS News: “[The attitude was] 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, have a big old party,” said Eric Millette.

 

He quit the organization after two years.

 

“I’ll be damned if you’re going to 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,” he said, CBS reported.

 

About 40 former WWP employees told CBS more of the same stories about the organization’s lavish spending.

 

“It was extremely extravagant,” one said. “Dinners and alcohol and just total excess. I mean, it’s what the military calls fraud, waste and abuse.”

 

And former WWP staffers said most of the excessive spending began when Nardizzi assumed the role of CEO in 2009.

 

“He rappelled down the side of a building” at the luxury retreat in Colorado Springs in 2014, one said, CBS reported. “He’s come in [to work] on a Segway. He’s come in on a horse.”

 

Donors expressed outrage at the reports of WWP spending in recent years, and the organization, in response, conducted its own internal reviews, ultimately hiring an outside agency to conduct the accounting analysis. WWP announced in its press release it has created an Office of the CEO to help oversee the organization on a temporary basis, and filled that slot with Chairman Anthony Odierno, along with senior members of the executive team. Board members have also kicked off a search for a new permanent CEO.

 

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