LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Two top executives with the Wounded Warrior Project have been fired after an expose by CBS News into that group’s spending policies.
On Thursday evening, CBS2’s Peter Daut went in search of veterans to get their opinion about the group and the accusations that got the two executives fired.
Outside the American Legion in Hollywood, he found a friendly gathering of veterans but they didn’t have the friendliest things to say about the WWP or former executives Steve Nardizzi or Al Giordano.
“The amount of outcry this has had especially among veterans and within the active duty military community, this was definitely long overdue,” says veteran Christopher Shaffer.
“The way that things were being handled were suspicious,” said Dwayne Conyers.
Wounded Warrior Project is well-known. Ita commercials asking for donations — “With a gift of just $19 a month, you can join …” — flood the airwaves.
Daut says WWP has raised more than $1 billion in donations since 2003. While the money was pouring in, CBS News learned only about half was actually going to help wounded vets.
The group used the rest of the money for overhead, big salaries and lavish events.
CBS talked to former WWP employee Eric Malette.
“Let’s get a Mexican mariachi band in there, let’s get maracas made with the Wounded Warrior Project logo, put it on every staff member’s desk, let’s get it catered. let’s have a big ol’ party,” Malette said.
CBS spoke with more than 40 former employees who said the charity’s spending was out of control. They say that began when Nardizzi took over as CEO in 2009.
“He rappelled down the side of a building. He’s come in on a Segway; he’s come in on a horse,” said one employee.
They pointed to the 2014 annual meeting held at a luxury resort in Colorado as typical of his style.
“I’ll be damned if they’re going to take hard-working Americans’ money, and drink it and waste it instead of helping those brave men and women who gave them the freedom to walk this face of the Earth,” Malette said.
For his part, Nardizzi has defended the lavish spending.
“If your only fixation is spending the most on programs that’s feeling good, but not necessarily doing good,” he explained.
Many veterans told Daut they hope new leadership will help bring major changes.
“Hopefully, the money will be spent wisely and appropriately,” said one.
Sources tell CBS News that retired senior military officers are now being considered to take over leadership of the organization
For more about the Wounded Warrior Project, click here.
For more about the CBS News report, click here.