At least five high-ranking executives with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer charity have resigned in the aftermath of the organization's decision to eliminate its funding for Planned Parenthood.
LaSalle D. Leffall Jr., 81, a prominent Howard University surgeon who chairs the board of the Susan G. Komen foundation, is stepping down as chair but remaining on the board, Komen officials said Thursday.
Leffall made the decision because of his duties as provost of Howard University, a Komen spokeswoman said. Leffall declined to comment. An unnamed source familiar with the board's deliberations told the Washington Post that Howard University wanted Leffall to distance himself from the Komen board — including taking a possible leave — since the controversy in February about Komen's unsuccessful attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.
Thursday's move is the latest in a series of leadership changes at Komen, and the first at the board level. Several executives at headquarters and affiliates have left or announced they are stepping down. Questions have also been raised about the charity's fundraising ability. Komen's senior leadership has sought to reassure affiliates and donors that it has learned valuable lessons from the public relations fiasco.
But the personnel moves also raise questions about the organization's commitment to new ways of doing business, according to some Komen employees. Other departures include three officials from Komen's Dallas headquarters, as well as CEOs of affiliate groups in Oregon and New York City.
Komen spokeswoman Leslie Aun said she could not speak to individuals' reasons for leaving but acknowledged the effects of the controversy among supporters.
"Obviously, we know some folks are upset. We've certainly seen that," Aun said.