Feed The Children (FTC) is under fire again, this time by the short-lived CEO who leveled accusations about the board’s oversight in a lawsuit filed this week. Former Congressman J.C. Watts directed his concerns to the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Public Protection Office in October weeks before a joint announcement that he would no longer be chief executive.
The seven-page complaint was filed in District Court of Oklahoma County and seeks a jury trial, $75,000 in damages as well as punitive damages and attorney’s fees. The suit also names six members of the board of directors as defendants.
Watts contends that the board misrepresented the strength of Feed The Children, assuring him that “well-publicized problems of the past” had been corrected. The former Oklahoma football star was recruited to be president and CEO in November 2015, meeting with the board’s search committee, and ultimately accepting the position as of February 2016.
Shortly after joining Feed The Children, Watts said he discovered “many internal management and financial problems,” as well as irregularities and problems in operations. Several times he requested to meet with the board to discuss the issues to not avail, according to the lawsuit, so he detailed his concerns and requested a meeting in a Sept. 27, 2016 letter to the board.
When the board took no action on his concerns, Watts alerted the state Attorney General’s Office on Oct. 18 and informed board member Mike Hogan of his missive on Nov. 3. The next day, Watt was terminated after a special board meeting “in retaliation for making the allegations known to the AG and the FTC Board of Directors.”
An email and voicemail message seeking comment from Feed The Children officials have not been returned. In an email late Wednesday, a spokesperson for the organization said Feed The Children does not comment on pending lawsuits.
Among the concerns Watts alleged are:
The AG’s office has referred the matter to Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater because recently appointed Attorney General Mike Hunter served as Watts’ chief of staff during his time in Congress. Hunter was appointed in February after Scott Pruitt was confirmed as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Feed The Children has experienced some tumultuous years recently, with the ouster of founder Larry Jones and subsequent lawsuits amid a power struggle at the organization. Jones was terminated before being voted off the board in 2010, ultimately receiving payment of $800,000 as part of a settlement reached in 2011.
During a transition period, former American Heart Association CEO Cass Wheeler served as CEO before Kevin Hagan was hired as the permanent chief executive. Things were relatively quiet during his three-year tenure and Hagan left two years ago to become CEO at American Diabetes Association in Arlington, Va.
Feed The Children reported $468 million in total revenue for the fiscal year ending June 2016, according to the most recent federal Form 990 filed in February. About $413 million, or 88 percent, of the total was reported in noncash contributions, such as food, hygiene supplies, books and publications, and drugs and medical supplies. Hagan received total compensation of $252,780 in the most recent fiscal year, but that was not a full year’s salary. The total included $111,980 in base compensation, $75,000 in bonus and incentive, and $56,796 in other reportable compensation.
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