Red Cross Names Interim Chief Executive
Three days after Bernadine Healy resigned as president of the American Red Cross, the organization announced yesterday that Red Cross executive Harold Decker will serve as its interim chief executive, the Washington Post reports. After working for a New Jersey pharmaceutical company, Decker joined the Red Cross eight months ago as its deputy general counsel. According to "charity watchdog groups," Decker's first priority will be to deal with the Red Cross' "Liberty Fund," established after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (Washington Post, 10/30). The organization "acknowledged" yesterday that some of the $550 million given to the fund will be used for "broad-based" efforts not directly related to the attacks, including $50 million for a blood readiness and reserve program, $26 million for a nationwide community outreach program and $29 million for improving the organization's "relief infrastructure." Red Cross spokesperson Mitch Hibbs said, "It takes a lot of money to do a lot of work. We believe very much that we are honoring donors intent. Yes, we are helping the families, but we're also helping everyone else" (Manchester Union Leader, 10/30). The resignation of Healy, who said she was "forced out of her job by some members" of the Red Cross' Board of Governors, will take effect on Dec. 31 (Washington Post, 10/30).
Below is a summary of three opinion pieces on Healy and the Red Cross:
- Commenting on the Red Cross' plan to use "as much as $80 million" raised in the wake of the attacks on "programs unrelated or only marginally linked to the terror attacks," a USA Today editorial says that such a course "isn't illegal, and the other causes may be worthy, but the switch appears to be a mismatch with donor intent." The editorial states that while Healy, after resigning, "insisted that the agency has done all it can" to inform the public that donations would be used for programs beyond direct assistance to the victims of the attacks, "not everyone ... parses the fine print of its appeals," and "thousands were moved to donate, believing they were helping terror victims." It concludes: "Certainly, the public's unprecedented generosity creates unprecedented challenges for charitable groups. The Red Cross and all non-profits need to make certain that donors' wishes are followed and that money flows quickly and efficiently to those who deserve it" (USA Today, 10/30).
- In an opposing op-ed, Bill Blaul, senior vice president for communication and marketing at the Red Cross, defends the organization's allocation of the donations, stating that it has spent $121 million in "ongoing disaster relief to the nation following Sept. 11" and that it has "provided more disaster-relief services and cash assistance than all other major humanitarian organizations combined." Stating that the "intent of our generous financial donors is to help everyone across the country who has been affected by the Sept. 11 and its aftermath," Blaul concludes: "This tragedy reaches far beyond New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon. ... The Red Cross has a responsibility to be there for people in communities nationwide" (Blaul, USA Today, 10/30).
- Calling Healy's resignation a "tragedy," former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger writes in a Washington Post op-ed that the main reason she "was forced out of office" by the Red Cross' Board of Governors was because of Healy's disagreement with the policy of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent to "oppose accepting Magen David Adom as a legitimate emblem of the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross." Eagleburger, a former secretary of state, says that acting on his advice, Healy decided to withhold dues to the federation in order to "force" it to take the American Red Cross' demands seriously. While the board approved the move, Eagleburger "warned" its support would not last. He concludes: "Before long the American Red Cross, under its new and surely more 'moderate' leadership, will return to paying its dues and 'cooling it' on the issue of granting Magen David Adom the equality justice demands. Those of us who, like Healy, believe that the American Red Cross must represent the best of our nation have lost not just a battle but a war" (Eagleburger, Washington Post, 10/30).
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