Red Cross President Resigns; Questions Remain

ByABC News via GMA logo
December 13, 2005, 6:36 PM

Dec. 13, 2005 — -- Today's resignation by American Red Cross President Marsha Evans makes her the third in the last four presidents of the organization to end their tenure after a major national disaster.

Evans' resignation came as a surprise just hours before a congressional committee heard detailed testimony of Red Cross shortcomings and failures in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The Red Cross operates under a charter from Congress, and in times of disaster, no American charity takes in more cash.

But the charitable organization was described today as operating like FEMA in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina -- both incompetent and ineffective.

"After witnessing the Red Cross' struggle in the wake of Katrina and Rita, I question whether it is prudent for the federal government to place such responsibility with one organization," said Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La.

After both hurricanes, many local officials complained the Red Cross was often missing from the worst-hit areas. Survivors found it impossible to get through on the organization's phone hot lines. And witnesses today claimed the Red Cross turned away victims who were disabled.

"One Red Cross official told me, 'We aren't supposed to help these people, we can't hardly help the intact people,'" said Marcie Roth, executive director of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association.

In response, the Red Cross acknowledged it was overwhelmed by the immensity of the storm and the subsequent damage.

"In a disaster the size of Great Britain, which street do you go down first?" said Joseph Becker, senior vice president at American Red Cross.

Leaders of other charities say the Red Cross' ability to raise money -- $1.8 billion after Hurricane Katrina -- outpaces its ability to spend it wisely.

"Their reputation is that of a charity quick off the mark to raise funds but very slow in spending it effectively," said Richard Walden, president of Operation USA.

Evans' resignation comes at a very crucial time in the charity world.

"This is a big giving time of the year when a lot of donors are making decisions about where their charitable donations will go, and now they might wonder whether their contributions were well-used," said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

ABC News' Maddy Sauer and Jill Rackmill contributed to this report.