Entering the Fray: Wounded Warrior Project Appoints New CEO

June 16, 2016; WJXT-TV (Jacksonville, FL)

It is an old story: a new executive arrives to helm a nonprofit helm only to uncover all the issues so carefully downplayed during the hiring process. But in the case of the Wounded Warrior Project, which has a new CEO after months without one, that discovery process may have already taken place after six months or more of intense scrutiny by the press and Congress.

WWP’s board of directors announced last week that it had appointed Michael Linnington to the CEO position he will assume on July 18th. Linnington’s 35-year military career includes three tours in combat and a stint immediately before this as the director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, a position he’s held only since 2015.

As NPQ readers know, Wounded Warrior Project’s former chief executive officer, Steven Nardizzi, and chief operating officer, Al Giordano, were asked to leave in March after media reports of lavish spending emerged, causing donors and, eventually, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and the Senate Judiciary Committee to take notice. The ouster was meant to start to “restore trust in the organization among all of the constituencies WWP serves.”

The chair of WWP’s board of directors, Anthony Odierno, said of the appointment that “Mike understands the unique needs of our nation’s veteran community, is a collaborative team-builder, and is deeply committed to fulfilling our mission of honoring and empowering Wounded Warriors.”

And while he ramps up for that hard job, as Odierno said, Linnington will have to consider very carefully how that lost trust will be restored. Among the issues that have emerged is the possible misallocation of fundraising costs as program costs in a process called “joint cost allocation.” The numbers given by the organization have varied from time to time, and the Senate Judiciary Committee was not persuaded by WWP’s estimates of the proportion of expenses spent on programs for veterans as late as last month.

“When our wounded veterans return home from combat, they rely on WWP and the organization’s dedicated team to provide necessary physical and mental health services, as well as economic empowerment and engagement programs that make a meaningful impact on their lives, and the lives of their families and caregivers,” said Linnington. “Being part of an organization committed to this important mission is a sacred duty and solemn responsibility.”—Ruth McCambridge