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Wounded Warrior Project faces power struggle at top of organization

After a CBS News investigation found that the Wounded Warrior Project was spending far less of its donations on veterans than other charities, the organization's top two officers were fired
Wounded Warrior founder calls for resignation of board chairman 02:35

CBS News has an update on our investigation into the Wounded Warrior Project, America's largest veterans charity. It took in $300 million in 2014. But charity watchdogs said just a little more than half was spent on wounded veterans.

Wounded Warrior Project board chair on getting past scandal 06:03

Since CBS News' reports first aired, the CEO was fired. And now, there's a power struggle at the top of the organization.

Retired Marine John Melia was injured in combat in Somalia. In 2003, he founded the Wounded Warrior Project with his family.

"This is about restoring an organization that I love, that my family loves," he said.

He said his family was pushed out six years ago after disagreeing with then-CEO Steven Nardizzi about how he was running the charity.

Melia told CBS News he's angry with the allegations of lavish spending that he fears comes at the expense of veterans' programs. Those were the issues that led to the firing of the charity's top two officers three weeks ago.

But the charity's original founders want more.

They're calling for the resignation of board chairman Anthony Odierno as the only way to restore public trust in the Wounded Warrior Project.

"The same board that oversaw these problems, who approved the budget, is the same board trying to fix the problem. Tony is a good and honorable servant of our country, but Tony was frankly asleep at the wheel," said Melia.

Odierno was appointed interim CEO, but CBS News has learned he works for a bank in New York, and is not running the daily operations of the charity in Jacksonville. He canceled a planned meeting with Melia after he threatened to make public the phone calls he recorded with board members that he says show a board in disarray.

John Melia. CBS News

In a statement Wednesday, the board said: "...the Melias are attacking the organization to promote their personal agenda" and their "conduct ... is not in keeping with how we wish to do business."

The statement concluded: "The Board has and will continue to act decisively to move the organization forward."

"We are not attacking the organization -- the Wounded Warrior Project is a pure mission," said Melias. "What's personal to us is to replace those people in the organization who didn't take care of the organization."

The Melia family said it feels the board's approval of the charity's spending, and its lack of transparency has eroded the public's trust in the charity, and John Melia hopes to be appointed interim CEO.

But the board no longer appears to be willing to engage with the charity's original founder. Full disclosure, a CBS Corporate executive serves on that board.

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