ILLINOIS — The Wounded Warrior Project is under fire after a three-part CBS News investigation showed top executives were wasting millions of dollars. The project’s board fired CEO, Steven Nardizzi, and COO, Al Giordano, Thursday. The decision has a lot of people wondering what’s next?
Extravagant parties and excessive spending: That’s what former employees told CBS News was happening at the Wounded Warrior Project; one of the country’s biggest non-profits for veterans.
“I was surprised on the lateness of the firing, how long it took for that to happen,” says Garrett Anderson, a retired sergeant. He lost his right arm when a roadside bomb exploded in Iraq. “They were there when I first got injured and they basically took me skiing and stuff like that.”
Anderson was involved with the project for several years, but he hasn’t worked with them for about six. Still, he says he’s paid close attention to the group.
“I think that the leadership, especially Steve Nardizzi, really led the mission astray.”
Nardizzi became CEO in 2009. CBS News reports the charity went from spending $1.7 million on conferences and meetings in 2010, to $26 million in 2014.
“I just think that when you have that amount of money coming into one organization, it’s hard to get rid of it and still stay a 401K, the nonprofit that they are. Sometimes, when you’re the biggest dog in the fight, you sometimes take advantage of some of your missions,” says Anderson.
Anderson says he knows fired COO, Giordano, personally.
“I just think he got caught up in a bad situation,” he says.
Neither Nardizzi nor Giordano were former military. That’s something Anderson says should change going forward.
“They try to get people in the mindset of getting better, but I think the one downfall of Wounded Warrior Project is that they don’t educate for the long-term. If they educated for the long-term I think they would have a little bit better outcome.”
He says despite any shortcomings, the project still has an important mission and he hopes people are still willing to help veterans.
CBS News reports Nardizzi defended the group’s spending. Project leaders say they’re putting new policies in place to help stop excessive spending.