By Jonah Bennett
Two top executives at the Wounded Warrior Project were fired Thursday, after the release of a damning news report alleging massive amounts of waste and misused funds at the veterans’ charity.
The charity’s CEO, Steven Nardizzi, and COO, Al Giordano, were fired Thursday afternoon, reported CBS News. In January, CBS reported the charity spent anywhere between 40 and 50 percent of its funds on costs not related to veterans.
The Wounded Warrior Project has brought in over a billion dollars in donations since it was first founded in 2003, but after 2009, spending on outrageous expenses absolutely exploded, leading to several disaffected former employees coming forward and telling a story of opulence and carelessness with funds.
CBS News interviewed over 40 employees during its investigation, many of whom did not want to go on the record or show their faces for fear of reprisal. As an example of misused funds, CBS found conference spending jumped from $1.7 million in 2010 to $26 million in 2014.
“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,” Eric Millette, a former motivational speaker with the WWP, told CBS News.
In some cases, Nardizzi would show up at lavish conferences rappelling down the side of a building, entering on a Segway and even riding in on a horse. Nardizzi tried to justify the expenses, but major donors like Fred and Dianne Kane weren’t buying it.
“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.”
Other related charities manage to allocate a much higher percentage to veterans. The Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust, for example, spends 96 percent on veterans.
No immediate successors for Nardizzi and Giordano were named, though the charity is talking about the possibility of recruiting retired senior military officers as their replacements.
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