Former CEO Suing Feed the Children for Dismissal Due to Alleged Retaliation
J.C. Watts, former U.S. Congressman and former CEO of the Oklahoma City-based Feed the Children, is suing the organization for allegedly firing him for reporting issues and irregularities to the state attorney’s general office, according to the lawsuit.
The contract between Watts and Feed the Children was originally set for 3 years effective Feb. 1, 2016, but ended after 10 months in November. Watts claims that he was terminated on Nov. 4 during a special board meeting “in retaliations for making the allegations known to the AG.” His allegations comprised of problems and irregularities related to the operation of the organization that he claimed he attempted to discuss with the board several times without success. Board members included in the lawsuit are Rick England, Mary Schrick, Gregg Yeilding, Kathy Doyle Thomas, Michelle Mesen and Mike Hogan.
Here are some of the problems and irregularities with the organization as stated in the lawsuit:
- Failure by Feed the Children to perform their due diligence in their duties to uphold their fiduciary responsibilities.
- Improper contracting practices including unanimous board approval of over $18 million in upfront investments.
- A $2 million upfront payment made to various Christian artists, which included marriage therapists and comedians.
- Chief operating officer’s salary was increased $6,000 while he served as interim CEO and not reduced after CEO was hired leaving his salary in excess of $300,000.
- Potential conflict of interest and other improprieties existing between the for-profit, Feed the Children Transportation, Inc., and the not-for-profit, Feed the Children.
The experience has left Watts in emotional distress and is asking to be compensated for financial and punitive damages and emotional distress—damages in excess of $75,000, along with punitive damages, attorney’s fees, costs and more.
According to the lawsuit, Watts believed that Feed the Children was interested in him because of his business experience, good reputation and ability to raise funds. He soon found out that the organization was only interested in his fundraising abilities and “did not want any interference with the long-running practices of the organization.”
Nhu Te is senior content manager at Fundraise Up, the AI-powered online donation platform for enterprise nonprofits. In her work, she focuses on helping nonprofits create more impact through personalized donor relations, digital fundraising and thoughtful use of technology.