JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The board of Wounded Warrior Project, one of the nation's largest veteran support groups, has fired two top officials amid news reports accusing the group of wasteful spending.
According to a statement released late Thursday on behalf of Wounded Warrior Project, chief executive officer Steve Nardizzi and chief operating officer Al Giordano are no longer with the organization.
The Wounded Warrior Project board of directors had hired outside legal counsel and forensic accounting consultants to conduct an independent review of the Jacksonville-based organization's records and interviews with current and former employees.
In late January, CBS News and The New York Times reported the organization spent too much on its own staff. According to those reports, Wounded Warrior Project spends 40 to 50 percent of its money on overhead — including extravagant parties — while other veterans charities have overhead costs of 10 to 15 percent.
They also interviewed former employees who accused the organization of making money off their injuries. One former employee said the way Wounded Warrior Project spends money is equivalent to "what the military calls fraud, waste and abuse."
The independent review found that Wounded Warrior Project's most recent audited financial statement showed the organization spent 80.6 percent of donations on programming, and that an employee conference at a resort reported to have cost $3 million actually cost about $970,000, according to the board's statement.
However, the organization would cut back on events such as the employee conference, as the review also found that some policies and procedures "have not kept pace with the organization's rapid growth in recent years and are in need of strengthening," the board said.
The organization also is putting limits on employee travel and expenses, and its financial statements will be independently audited and posted on the Wounded Warrior Project's website, the board said.
To help restore trust and move forward with the changes, the board decided to remove Nardizzi and Giordano and create an Office of the CEO to oversee Wounded Warrior Project on an interim basis. The office will be led by board chairman Anthony Odierno and senior members of the existing executive team.
"It is now time to put the organization's focus directly back on the men and women who have so bravely fought for our country and who need our support," Odierno said.
According to the board's statement, participation in Wounded Warrior Project programs for injured veterans, their caregivers and family members rose from 1,850 to 144,000 from 2010 to 2015.