JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—The ousted Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer of the Wounded Warrior Project are finding relief in a new independent report on the allegations against the military charity.
"I think it vindicates us," says Steven Nardizzi, the former CEO. "It absolutely does."
Former COO Al Giodarno said it not only vindicates them, it also vindicates the non-profit.
The 79-page white paper was written by Doug White. White is a well known leader in the nation's philanthropic community, an advisor to nonprofits.. He examined the Wounded Warrior scandal for months.
"The genesis was a concern about the NYT and CBS reports in late January 2016," says White.
He said he felt the stories lacked balance and thoroughness even before he knew the inner workings of WWP.
"I decided to do the report, without pay or sponsorship, because my interest and past work in the nonprofit world compelled me to look into something that simply did not - and still does not - make sense," says White.
For the fired executives it turned the spotlight on what they have said from day one.
"We knew it was all false but the problem was it was kind of serving to say it," says Giodarno. "That's why you have an independent third party validater now in Mr White."
White, in his report, found errors in both the CBS and New York times stories; He concludes: "...each organization should run an apology story..."
"They got sloppy," says Nardizzi, "they had questionable sources.'
The White report described the scandal as a well thought-out, planned attack on WWP by disgruntled employees.
"We had not realize that there was an active group that had come together to do harm to the organization," says Nardizzi.
When White examined the board of directors and its response to the allegations, he concluded the board should resign.
"This was not a senior staff problem," wrote White, "this was and quite possibly still is, a board problem."
"You had board members at our annual events. We had a forensic audit, of six years, almost a billion dollars of expenses and they showed nothing was out of place," says Giodarno.
Both Nardizzi and Giordano say they were surprised when the board fired them without a chance to respond.
The controversy and their dismissal have taken a toll on the non-profit: mainly, donors have closed their wallets. Nardizzi calls it tragic considering the need is still there.
"There are still great people in this community helping warriors, but now they have less resources," he says. "It was avoidable that's the tragedy it was a self inflicted would by the board."
The Jacksonville-based Charity served nearly 100,000 veterans under Nardizzi and Giordano. Since 2003, they've raised nearly a billion dollars to need the needs of post 9/11 veterans. They say as a modern charity they did things differently.
"We're a 21st century charity trying to cure 21st century ills, you need to do things differently," says Giodarno.
They're are now working with other non-profits on a much smaller scale. They hope Doug White's Independent report will help restore the public's trust in Wounded Warrior Project.
"I hope that this helps to restore trust in the organization and get donors back behind it, get the American public back behind it because there is a great need out there," says Nardizzi.
We contacted the board of directors for comment on the call for the members to resign. The public relations firm of Abernathy MacGregor Group provided the following statement:
The facts are that the Board acted swiftly to conduct an thorough review with an independent law firm and outside accountants and promptly publicized the key findings of that review in a press release on March 10.
The Board also quickly implemented multiple critical changes at WWP over the last several months to ensure the organization continues to fulfill its mission of providing critical, life-saving programs and services to our nation’s latest generation of wounded warriors, while exercising greater control over costs. These changes include the appointment of Lieutenant General Mike Linnington as the organization’s new CEO, who has revamped the structure of the organization to ensure it is operating as effectively and efficiently as possible, and the addition of Mr. Ken Fisher and Lieutenant General Richard Tryon to the WWP Board, each of whom bring a lifetime of dedication to veterans’ causes and deep experience managing non-profits.
Doug White says he is in the process of writing a book about the WWP crisis. It would be his fifth. He says he will also turn his findings over to the respective state agencies.
"I intend to submit my findings to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which I'm fairly certain is the oversight agency for charities in Florida," he says. "I also may contact the Charities Bureau, at the Attorney General's office, here in New York, as WWP raises money here."
Read White's report here: