JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Wounded Warrior Project executive has taken to social media to respond to a News4Jax investigation into questionable spending by the charity.
Several whistleblowers raised red flags in the reports about how donors' money is spent and about a culture of fear within the charity, which is headquartered on Jacksonville's Southside.
Former employees also questioned the group's practice of printing expensive annual yearbooks for its staff that cost more than $20,000 a year.
The CEO of Wounded Warrior Project, Steven Nardizzi, remains mum more than a month after the investigation was launched.
But Adam Silva, the charity's chief program officer, spoke out about the controversy on his social media pages.
One Facebook post, made two days after the investigative reports in January, read:
“Disclaimer: 'Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth.' ... This week many who love me asked, 'how you holding up?' My response: God blessed me with the honor and responsibility of leading the baddest f'ing non-profit program team IN THE WORLD for the baddest f'ing Veterans Service Organization IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY. I'd say I'm 'holding up' pretty well.”
Another post that same week read:
“I would like to officially apologize to my WWP family. Today I broke a rule and I beg for your forgiveness. I CALLED A WARRIOR to check in. I'm not sure I'll ever recover from this. #sarcasm”
That post appears to be in response to a claim made by Erick Millette, a wounded Iraqi war vet who said he quit working for Wounded Warrior Project because of what he saw there.
"There's a saying in Wounded Warrior Project, 'Warriors call us; we don't call them,'” Millette told News4Jax.
Silva later “liked” a comment on his post that read: “Are you sure that you didn't call that warrior to sue them Adam Silva?”
News4Jax reported over a month ago that Wounded Warrior Project is suing two injured veterans who used to work for them. Sources told News4Jax that those lawsuits have ruined the lives of the veterans being sued.
Silva also posted:
“I would like to officially apologize to my WWP family. I beg for your forgiveness. You see, I am the monster who set your 'metrics' too high. Ignore the fact that metrics are defined as 'a method of measuring something, or the results obtained from this,' ...And also please ignore the fact that you all shattered the 'metrics' set for you. You get the point. I am guilty of both setting our 'metrics' too high and failing to focus on serving Warriors and their Families. I'm not sure I'll ever recover from this. #sarcasm”
Silva referred to the controversy as "heavy bulls***" and wrote, “statement to my WWP teammates -- Rock Steady baby! Love, the divA hisself.”
In the Wounded Warrior Project yearbooks News4Jax obtained, there were several photos in which Silva referred to himself as the divA, dressing up with a princess crown. At an employee training convention, when staffers were asked to write what they were inspired by, Silva wrote simply: DIVAS.
In response to the local and national stories about the questionable spending practices, the Wounded Warrior Project board of directors issued a statement saying "the Board takes very seriously the concerns that have been raised" and promising a full financial and policy review.
According to the most recent tax filing for WWP, Silva makes more than $278,000 a year in salary and benefits, funded by donor dollars.
Silva's wife also works for Wounded Warrior Project as an executive vice president.
Repeated requests from News4Jax to speak to anyone in Wounded Warrior Project's management have been denied.
News4Jax has learned that the Patriots Initiative, a California-based charity that grades military charities, has downgraded the Wounded Warrior Project and removed the charity from its list of efficient and transparent charities.