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Charity Head Stages Failed Coup

Published 04/01/2009

Larry Jones, founder of the well-known hunger charity Feed the Children (FC), was recently mentioned in an ongoing court case in which the group’s longstanding board of directors claim they were unlawfully ousted by Jones, board chariman Dwight Powers, and five improperly appointed directors. Court papers reveal that after learning of the board's plans to place him on "indefinite sabbatical," Jones packed the board in his favor with directors who would be friendly to him and then fired the longstanding directors. Among the board's concerns were that Jones allegedly did not receive board approval for major purchasing commitments, including approximately $35 million per year for a "Television Buying Agreement," and evidence of a son's personal use of charitable resources. Jones, along with his new board, then fired most of FC's key staff, including the charity's chief financial officer, chief operating officer, and an internal auditor. Also fired was FC's general counsel, Larri Sue Jones, Larry Jones' daughter.

According to a February article in The Oklahoman, Jones' attorney, Leif Swedlow, said of the court case, "The suit attempts to dispute the election of five prominent pastors to Feed the Children's board of directors. Feed the Children believes that the claims have no merit." The judge disagreed, reinstating the five fired board members, and ordering no major changes in the organization until a later hearing on the matter can be held.

FC, which has consistently received an F grade from AIP for low program spending and high fundraising costs, continues to receive a failing grade based on its 2007 tax form and audit, the most current available. For more than a decade AIP has been reporting on issues related to FC's financial efficiency, accountability, and governance, and is interested in what additional information may be revealed while following the ongoing case as it unfolds.

Update: In order to settle the above-cited lawsuit, Larry Jones agreed to step down as head of Feed the Children and focus his efforts on public relations and fundraising, according to an August 14, 2009 statement from the charity.

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