Jones Ousted As Boss At Feed The Children

August 14, 2009       Mark Hrywna      

Larry Jones, founder and president of Feed The Children, today relinquished day-to-day operational control of the Oklahoma City, Okla., nonprofit as part of a lawsuit settlement. Both sides in a nasty boardroom battle were scheduled for court today.

Current CEO Travis Arnold and the board will have operational control of the $1.18 billion organization. Jones will continue as the face of the organization with responsibilities for fundraising.

Jones told The NonProfit Times exclusively, “I’ll be doing what I was doing, hopefully, without as much tension.”

Details of the settlement were not disclosed. The two sides had been in talks on a settlement since litigation was initiated this past January. Today’s scheduled hearing had been to determine the rightful, legal members of the board. “The main thing was not to go to court today, and we didn’t,” said Larry Jones, who founded the organization in 1979 with his wife, Frances.

Five board members filed suit in January claiming they were ousted, days before a scheduled board vote in December on Larry Jones’ tenure, to make way for newly-instituted board members. The new board voted to dismiss the nonprofit’s chief financial officer, chief operating officer, general counsel (Larry’s daughter, Larri Sue) and an internal auditor. Those employees will remain as part of this settlement, The NonProfit Times has learned.

The board members who sued claimed that Jones and board Chairman Dwight Powers violated the organization’s by-laws by suddenly replacing them with five new board members in December: Paul Osteen, Mark Crow, Mark Beeson, Al Jandl and Wayne Anderson. A judge previously reinstated the former board members on a temporary basis, and the board had been meeting while the litigation and negotiations were in progress.

The new board members were brought in amidst a struggle for control of the board and organization, weakening a faction that supported Larri Sue Jones to succeed her father.

In a brief telephone interview this afternoon, Rick England, one of  the five board members who filed suit, said attorneys for both sides  were “agreeing on the finer points” of the settlement until yesterday.

England could offer few details until the organization’s board meets again, probably in the next week or two, he said. Asked whether Powers would remain chairman of the board, England said, “He is right at this second but I just don’t know. We haven’t scheduled a board meeting yet.” He also could not speak to whether Jones would remain at his current salary ($234,937) as president.

“At the end of the day, it became quite clear that the best interest of the children we serve around the world were not being met as long as we were distracted by the lawsuit,” Jones said. “Therefore, after much prayer and consideration, Frances and I, along with the board members, agreed to end the lawsuit so Feed The Children can move forward again,” he said in a statement. Jones will report to the board, not to Arnold for the immediate future.

Jones said things should be settled within the “next 30 to 45 days.” He said that, “not a whole lot has changed,” since the last court date. “We had to get this dismissed. The suit was against the preachers and they didn’t do anything wrong,” said Jones.

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