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Susan G. Komen executives: More resignations

Susan G. Komen executives depart in turmoil over a funding flap of Planned Parenthood. At least five Susan G. Komen executives have left.

By Jamie StengleAssociated Press / March 24, 2012

In this February file photo, a small group of women protest outside the Susan G. Komen for the Cure headquarters in Dallas. Several high-ranking executives with Susan G. Komen for the Cure have resigned in the aftermath of Komen’s decision (since reversed) to eliminate most of its funding for Planned Parenthood.

Rex C. Curry/AP/File

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DALLAS

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.

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The departures include three officials from Komen's Dallas headquarters, as well as CEOs of affiliate groups in Oregon and New York City. The chairman of the foundation also stepped down from his post, though he will remain on the board. Although some cited personal reasons, the resignations suggest that Komen is still in turmoil, even after reversing course and restoring the money to Planned Parenthood.

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. "We know people have been upset by recent events, but most really do recognize the importance of our work."

The resignations began about a month ago. Chris McDonald, executive director and chief executive of the organization's Oregon and southwest Washington affiliate, announced that she'll leave at the end of April. She said her decision wasn't "predicated by any one event," but that actions by national headquarters affected her thinking.

"Despite our deep frustration about the distraction that our organization headquarters' actions caused, I was proud that our affiliate took a strong stand against the politicization of the fight to improve women's health," McDonald said in a Feb. 25 statement posted on the organization's website.

One board member for McDonald's affiliate, Portland attorney Jennifer Williamson, rejoined the board after stepping down last month to put pressure on the national organization. She couldn't walk away from the localKomen work to expand access to women's health care, she said.

"As a local affiliate we could push back on them but we couldn't do anything about it," said Williamson, who is also on the Planned Parenthood board and is a Democratic candidate for the state Legislature. "I did what I had the ability to do, which was resign from the board. But to support the mission ... I rejoined the board."

News emerged in late January that Komen had decided to stop giving money to Planned Parenthood for breast-screening services because Planned Parenthood was the focus of a congressional investigation launched at the urging of anti-abortion activists. After a three-day firestorm of criticism, Komen decided to restore the money.

Some Komen affiliates, including McDonald's, were among those that publicly opposed the policy change that cut off grants for Planned Parenthood.

In the days after the reversal, Komen policy chief Karen Handel resigned. She had opposed abortion as a Republican candidate for Georgia governor and had become a target of those angry about the decision to halt funding to Planned Parenthood.

In Dallas, the three resignations were Katrina McGhee, executive vice president and chief marketing officer; Nancy Macgregor, vice president of global networks; and Joanna Newcomb, director of affiliate strategy and planning.

McGhee announced in February that she would be leaving May 4 "for personal reasons" and because it was "time to make a change."

McGregor will leave in June, and Newcomb departed at the end of February. The Associated Press left messages Thursday for McGhee and Macgregor. Newcomb declined to comment.

Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr. also will step down from his post as chairman of the foundation's board of directors as of March 31, but he will remain on the board, Aun said. His decision, which was finalized at a Thursday board meeting, comes as he is "stepping back a bit" from the board due to his responsibilities is his role as provost at Howard University, she said. Leffall did not immediately return messages from the AP.

Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron, CEO of Komen's New York City affiliate, said Tuesday that she will leave April 27. Her affiliate was also critical of the Planned Parenthood decision, but she did not cite that in a letter posted on the website, saying only that she wanted to pursue "new career opportunities" and that leaving "was not an easy decision."

Vern Calhoun, a spokesman for the New York affiliate, said Richardson-Heron was not speaking to reporters.

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