Red Cross CEO Shared Donor Information With Companies: Lawsuit

An ex-employee says the organization was $600,000 in debt when she started

Editor's Note: On Feb. 12, 2016, NBC 7 received information that this matter had been resolved between the American Red Cross and Joy Chesbrough. They jointly released the following statement: 

"The parties have come to an agreement to resolve their differences. Ms. Chesbrough ackowledges that her perceptions of possible unethical behavior on the part of the San Diego Red Cross CEO Bill Earley were based on a misunderstanding. The American Red Cross wishes Ms. Chesbrough well in her future endeavors, and both parties express their mutual respect for each other's work and their place in the community." 

The former chief fundraiser for the San Diego Imperial County Chapter of the American Red Cross has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit that accuses the chapter’s CEO of unlawful and unethical conduct.

Former Chief Development Officer Joy Chesbrough says CEO William Earley shared confidential donor information with outside companies, including organizations with whom Earley had a special interest -- a violation of Red Cross policy, according to Chesbrough.

Red Cross Communications Director Courtney Pendleton provided a written statement to NBC 7 investigates:

"We are aware of the claims by Ms. Chesbrough. Her allegations are untrue. The Red Cross cannot perform its mission without the generosity of our donors and their personal information is not shared.

"The case with Ms. Chesbrough is in litigation and we cannot comment on the matter until it is fully resolved. With respect to Ms. Chesbrough’s departure, like many organizations the Red Cross considers personnel matters private and we do not comment on the reasons why someone has left the organization."

Chesbrough was employed as the CDO with the Red Cross from July 11, 2014, until January 5, 2015, according to the 29-page complaint, which was filed on April 17.

In her lawsuit, Chesbrough claims she took the job after being assured the Red Cross was financially sound, only to find out the organization was $600,000 in debt.

She says “she had stepped into an organization with poor management, dysfunction, and practices that reasonably appeared to be unlawful and were outright unethical in violation of the Red Cross’ private policy."

According to Chesbrough, she was wrongfully terminated for refusing to be a part of Early’s "improper, unlawful, and unethical attempts.. to disclose confidential donor information for his own personal benefit.”

She alleges other serious ethical violations and mismanagement, claiming at one point there were “over months of mail (about 400-800 envelopes) containing substantial donations from the community (that) had not been picked up."

She also makes allegations about a dysfunctional phone system, "routing donors to voicemails of personnel who no longer worked for the Red Cross, like a former employee who was deceased."

Chesbrough directed all questions from NBC 7 Investigates to her attorney, who has not provided a response or comment.

If the two sides can't settle the case, there could be a trial some time next summer.

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