Millard Fuller, Co-Founder of Habitat for Humanity, Dies
But a scandal that had smoldered for years flared anew in 2004 to sully Fuller's legacy.
Habitat's international board moved to oust Fuller from his position of chief executive officer after allegations surfaced that he had sexually harassed a female staff member in 2003. The move came despite the board's conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the charge.
However, the allegations of inappropriate behavior mirrored complaints in 1990 from female staffers and volunteers that led to Fuller's yearlong exile from the organization's headquarters.
Fuller acknowledged he had kissed and hugged the women who made the 1990 complaints, but argued they had misinterpreted his actions. But he categorically denied the later charge, telling the AP in 2004 that "there's not even the tiniest element of truth in it."
President Carter had to intervene in both of those instances to prevent the board from ousting Fuller.
In 2004, Fuller reached a compromise that allowed him to stay on in the largely ceremonial role of "founder and president." However, the Fullers backed out of an agreement not to discuss the situation publicly, and the board voted in January 2005 to oust Fuller and his wife.
Months later, the Fullers and their supporters formed The Fuller Center for Housing, a fundraising group for charitable home-building efforts. The new group was originally called Building Habitat, but that name was quickly dropped after Habitat for Humanity sued over Fuller's use of the word "Habitat," arguing it was a trademark infringement and could interfere with Habitat's business and fundraising.
Fuller attributed his ouster to disagreements with the board over whether to slow the charity's growth. He argued Habitat was becoming more bureaucracy than mission.
"If we lose the 'movement mentality' we will not go out of existence, but we will stagnate and become just 'another nonprofit' doing good work across the county and around the world," he wrote in a letter to the committee that searched for his successor as CEO.