HOLIDAY — Staff of the Pasco charity Veterans Alternative see each day how their work helps veterans struggling to re-enter civilian life.
That work has run into a roadblock. And the barrier, according to staff at the nonprofit, is the organization’s leadership.
On Thursday, attorney Nikhil N. Joshi issued a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, saying that Veterans Alternative staff have sought corrective actions from the organization’s board of directors for the behavior of charity co-founder and chief executive officer Brian Anderson. Joshi represents all the staff at the charity except Anderson.
The letter alleges that two board members, chairperson Thomas May and vice chairperson Patricia Thompson, “have engaged in a pattern of conduct with the sole goal of protecting Mr. Anderson and his personal interests, instead of exercising their fiduciary duties.”
Joshi’s letter was sent a day after a Times’ story described claims of Anderson harassing three women who worked at the charity.
Anderson has been on personal leave from the nonprofit for most of the last six months, after massage therapist Mariah King reported to New Port Richey police that Anderson had touched her inappropriately during an October massage. Anderson faces a misdemeanor battery charge, to which he has pleaded not guilty.
The charge prompted the three charity workers — Sarah Thomas, Christina Brenia and Jeannine Laurence — to come forward with their experiences.
May and Thompson both said they take the accusations against Anderson seriously and are waiting for the conclusion of an outside investigation, which the board authorized.
“The allegations that have been made about Mr. Anderson are extremely severe, and the board is dedicated to treating such allegations with the appropriate amount of gravity,” May said in an email to the Times. “The board is toward the end of a formal investigation, and, once it is completed, we will take all steps appropriate to allow Veterans Alternative to continue to fulfill its mission.”
Added Thompson: “The investigation remains ongoing, but our goal is to conclude that investigation as quickly as possible. Our Board’s goal remains to protect the organization so that it can continue to do wonderful, important work.”
Joshi wrote that staff hoped that Anderson would not be retained in any position. If he were, Joshi wrote, it would be seen as “an utter slap in the face to all staff who have bravely raised their voice in good faith to protect VA and its stakeholders.”
Anderson did not immediately respond to a request for comment nor did his attorney in the criminal case, Christopher Blaine.
“Mr. Anderson is completely innocent,” said Shane Vogt, another attorney representing Anderson. “We cannot try his case in the court of public opinion or comment further because of pending and forthcoming litigation, but the truth will come to light.”
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The letter said concerns about Anderson’s behavior had been brought to the board before by staff, by a volunteer in the program and by Joshi before the story appeared.
Joshi’s letter to the board demanded May and Thompson’s resignation, or at the least for them to recuse themselves from any action related to Anderson. Joshi also called for an independent investigation of the nonprofit.
“The staff want to make it clear that they are definitely appalled by the criminal charge filed against Mr. Anderson as well as the information contained in the recent news article, among other items previously conveyed to the VA board concerning Mr. Anderson,” Joshi wrote.
“Veterans Alternative Inc. has been and should remain, bigger than one person — Mr. Anderson, or, for that matter, May and Thompson,” Joshi wrote, “and we hope the behavior of a few individuals will not impact VA’s ability to deliver crucial services to our nation’s heroes.”