Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Names Interim CEO to Replace Former Head Who Resigned After Internal Investigation

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Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), one of the nine voluntary agencies (VOLAGs) who, until the current fiscal year, have collectively been paid more than $1 billion annually by the federal government to resettle refugees, has named an interim CEO after the previous CEO, Linda Hartke, resigned abruptly in February.

Hartke’s resignation came after the completion of an internal investigation first reported by Breitbart News.

VOLAGs receive almost all of their funding from the federal government, with revenues tied directly to the number of refugees resettled. Refugee admissions have plummeted under the Trump administration, driving VOLAG revenues down dramatically – placing the ability of several to continue operating in question.

In FY 2016, the last full year of the Obama administration, 84,995 refugees were admitted to the United States. In FY 2017, the number of refugees admitted dropped to 53,716. During the first six months of FY 2018, from October 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, the number of refugees admitted to the United States dropped even further, to 10,548.

“(LIRS) is excited to announce the appointment of Pat Nichols as Interim President and Chief Executive Officer, effective Thursday, April 5, 2018,” the organization said in a statement released earlier this month.

The statement continued:

Nichols brings a deep understanding of nonprofit leadership through his position as President of Transition Leadership International, LLC. For more than 20 years, he has served as an Interim CEO to nonprofits facing strategic transitions. He has led transitions for organizations engaged in youth issues, equal rights, alternative energy, and healthcare, including for Safe Kids Worldwide, an international subsidiary of Children’s National Health Systems. He has also managed the start-up of Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a $450 million-a-year research funder created by Congress and has provided strategic consultation for organizations like the Susan G. Komen Foundation and other nonprofits facing similar transitions.

“As we face the worst global displacement crisis in history, the LIRS mission—to stand with and advocate for migrants and refugees and transform communities through ministries of service and justice—is more crucial now than ever,” LIRS Board Chair, Bishop Michael Rinehart said in the statement.

“During the board’s search for an Interim President and CEO, we sought a leader who would strengthen our ability to advance that mission in turbulent times and continue to strengthen our capacity to serve through this transition. Pat Nichols, with his history of success in leading nonprofits through times of transition, proved to be the ideal candidate, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome him to the team,” Rinehart added.

“It is an honor to accept the Board’s appointment as Interim President and CEO of LIRS,” Nichols said in the statement.

“America’s commitment to welcoming the stranger is a defining attribute of who we are as a country. In these challenging times I look forward to working with the migrants and refugees we serve, the board, our dedicated staff and partners to build on that commitment and to extend LIRS’s proud legacy of service as we prepare for the transition to a long-term leader,” Nichols added.

According to his website, Nichols founded Transition Leadership International, LLC “[i]n 1996, after leading two civic sector organizations through major transitions.”

“The dozen organizations I have led since have met an average of 90% of the ambitious goals set for us by their Boards; some have substantially exceeded those goals. I am hired to ensure that together we will get results. We will share authority widely but full and final accountability rests with the Board (for governance) and me (for management),” Nichols says on his website.

Neither Rinehart nor Nichols made any mention of the investigation that prompted his predecessor’s departure.

Critics say that money flowed so freely to the VOLAGs under the Obama administration that many lacked sufficient financial controls.

With the reduction of revenue associated with the decline of refugee admissions under the Trump administration, operational weaknesses that were previously unnoticed, have now come to the forefront in many VOLAGs.

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