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President of Red Cross Is Forced to Resign

Mark W. Everson was president and chief executive of the Red Cross for six months and was the disaster relief organization's fifth leader in six years.
Mark W. Everson was president and chief executive of the Red Cross for six months and was the disaster relief organization's fifth leader in six years. (2004 Photo By Dennis Brack -- Bloomberg News)

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By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The American Red Cross forced its president and chief executive, Mark W. Everson, to resign yesterday because he had an inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate, a spokeswoman for the disaster relief agency said.

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Everson's ouster was a blow to the Red Cross, which has faced a rapid turnover in leadership and has struggled to restore a reputation damaged by its response to Hurricane Katrina. The agency's fifth chief in six years, Everson was at the helm of the federally chartered organization for six months.

The Red Cross board of directors asked for his resignation after learning of the relationship 10 days ago, spokeswoman Suzy C. DeFrancis said.

Mary S. Elcano, the agency's general counsel and a veteran federal official, was named interim president and chief executive yesterday. The board formed a committee to select a permanent replacement.

The Red Cross had high hopes for Everson, who had served in the Bush administration since 2001, most recently as commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service and before that as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. He was considered a seasoned leader, skilled at navigating the politics of Washington and capable of managing the Red Cross's more than 700 chapters.

Everson, 53, who is married and the father of two grown children, issued a resignation statement.

"I am resigning my position for personal and family reasons and deeply regret it is impossible for me to continue in a job so recently undertaken," Everson said. "I leave with extraordinary admiration for the American Red Cross, the service its men and women provide our nation, and for the humanitarian work of the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement across the world."

In an unusually candid news release, the Red Cross said its board "concluded that the situation reflected poor judgment on Mr. Everson's part and diminished his ability to lead the organization in the future."

DeFrancis declined to name the subordinate but said she still works at the Red Cross. DeFrancis said she did not know whether the woman would be disciplined. Red Cross officials said they are not aware of any financial improprieties or allegations of preferable treatment stemming from the relationship.

The 126-year-old Red Cross handles half of the U.S. blood supply and has federal responsibility for coordinating the charitable response to the country's largest catastrophes.

Board chairwoman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter called Everson's departure "difficult and disappointing news for the Red Cross community."

"The organization remains strong and the life-saving mission and work of the American Red Cross will go forward," McElveen-Hunter said in a statement.

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