Head of veterans charity convicted of battery quits job

VACATION – Brian Anderson, the co-founder of Veterans Alternative, is no longer the charity’s chief executive after a jury last week found him guilty of assault and battery for improperly touching a massage therapist in October.

Information that Anderson quit his job the day of his trial was shared with organization staff on Tuesday, according to Pat Fried, chief operating officer, and Chris Sowell, chief operating officer. Council counsel Caitlein Jammo told the Tampa Bay Weather Wednesday Anderson resigned before the trial.

The meeting was the first between staff and the board since allegations that Anderson touched the therapist inappropriately and three women told the Tampa Bay Weather that Anderson had had unwanted contact and physical advances while working at Veterans Alternative.

Anderson was suspended from his job after massage therapist Mariah King reported the battery to New Port Richey police, but when no formal charges immediately followed, he was reinstated. After Anderson was formally charged in March, the board again suspended him pending the outcome of the trial.

Related: Women tell of allegations of sexual harassment by the head of the Pasco veterans association

Fried said council met with staff for two hours on Tuesday. They were informed of Anderson’s separation from the organization. They also spoke of the communications breakdown that led staff members to hire their own lawyers and to seek the removal of board chairman and vice-chairman Thomas May and Patricia Thompson, who they say , protected Anderson.

“We all agreed it was time to move forward with the organization,” Fried said. Part of that discussion also included expanding the board by adding several veterans and others who have worked with Veterans Alternative and who share the charity’s vision, she said.

These new members would also share core values ​​such as zero tolerance for harassment and a strict code of ethics, she said. “Transparency, integrity and accountability are very important to us,” Fried said.

Sowell said staff had been honest with customers about Anderson, saying it was important because their job is built on trust. Still, he says, “It was a struggle. … We have the best and most dedicated staff here and we put the mission first.

Jammo called the criticism of the board’s handling of the allegations against Anderson “unwarranted.” noting that the board placed Anderson on leave after learning of the allegations and authorizing an external investigation into the charges. She said in a statement that the council remained silent “to avoid elevating these inaccurate allegations against the council above the mission” of Veterans Alternative.

The board “took the allegations very seriously and responded quickly in an appropriate and professional manner,” she said. “We hope that everyone involved in this unfortunate situation will get the help they deserve, mend the wounds it has caused, and focus on the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much in service to our great nation. .”

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The organization was founded in 2014 as a provider of alternative therapies to help veterans struggling with the trauma of their service experience. Anderson was a former Green Beret whose story of military service and struggle to return to civilian life was a cornerstone of the organization.

“Brian is honored to have (led) Veterans Alternative for the past six years and is extremely proud of what he and the organization have accomplished during that time,” his attorney, Shane Vogt, said. “Brian’s primary focus is and always will be the welfare of his fellow veterans.

“He resigned from Veterans Alternative ahead of legal proceedings last week and has made this difficult decision because he wants to avoid any further distraction from Veterans Alternative’s critical mission while he continues the fight to clear his name,” said said Vogt. “He will appeal the conviction and, regardless of the outcome, will continue to dedicate his life to helping other brave veterans who sacrificed their mental and physical well-being to protect and serve our great nation.”

Anderson is currently being held in the Pasco County Jail pending his July 29 misdemeanor battery sentencing. He also faces a drug possession charge for attempting to take a Xanax pill that was not prescribed to him because he was incarcerated in the prison.

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