AMERICUS, Ga. (Jan. 31, 2005) -- The executive committee of the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity International today announced its decision to terminate the employment of founder president Millard Fuller, effective immediately. At the same time, the employment of co-founder Linda Fuller also was ended. Retirement benefits will be formulated to meet the requests of the Fullers.
Paul Leonard, who has served as chief executive officer since last fall, will continue to lead the organization while a search committee identifies and selects a permanent successor to Millard Fuller. President Carter, who has attempted for several months to serve as mediator, was informed of today's decision and expressed his continuing personal friendship with the Fullers and his support of Habitat for Humanity International. He has agreed to serve as an honorary chair of the search committee.
The termination decisions culminate several months of differences between the Fullers and the board over an allegation of inappropriate personal behavior by Millard Fuller toward a now-former female employee, and the Fullers’ behavior as the investigation into that complaint unfolded. The executive committee, which acted with the authority of the full board, also cited a pattern of ongoing public comments and communications by the Fullers that have been divisive and disruptive to the organization’s work. The board earlier had relieved Millard Fuller of direct supervision of employees, and in October 2004 removed him from day-to-day operational decisions.
In announcing the decision, board chair Rey Ramsey said, “Our respect for Millard’s founding vision and the years of devoted service he and Linda have given to Habitat leave us extremely saddened at this turn of events. We have tried repeatedly over the past several months to resolve differences in a spirit of respectful confidentiality. In every instance, the Fullers ultimately have rejected or been openly critical of any and all steps taken toward appropriate compromise. The board must therefore fulfill its fiduciary obligation to the organization and our moral responsibility to all those who share in Habitat’s mission.
“No issue, no person, no debate can be permitted to compromise the integrity and work of this extraordinary ministry,” added Ramsey. “Whatever our personal feelings about current issues, we can allow nothing to distract us from our shared mission—building houses and hope with families desperately in need of both throughout our communities, nations and world. That mission deserves and demands our full attention.”
The board is grateful, said Ramsey, that Paul Leonard has made himself available for service.
“With Paul’s experience and dedication to Habitat’s mission, we know that leadership of the organization’s important work is in good hands,” he said. “We had a very successful Jimmy Carter Work Project in Mexico last October and are expecting an outstanding Carter project this summer in Michigan. In the last month, we have begun raising the $25 million that will be necessary to assist 25,000 families affected by last month’s earthquake and tsunami. And house building around the globe is on a record pace, with plans this summer to dedicate Habitat for Humanity’s 200,000th home and celebrate the millionth person housed.”
Leonard, who was named managing director of HFHI in June and CEO in October, agreed to serve until June 2006 to help lead the organization forward. He began volunteering with Habitat in 1992, served as president of Our Towns of Lake Norman (N.C.) Habitat for Humanity, and was elected to the International Board or Directors in 1995, serving in several key board roles including chair, before rotating off the board in 2003. He also brings significant business and industry experience to his Habitat role. A retired real estate and housing professional, Leonard rose to the rank of executive vice president for Centex Real Estate Corp. Prior to that, he was president of John Crosland Co., a home builder and development company that was acquired by Centex.
As a Presbyterian minister in the 1960s and ’70s, Leonard founded the Charlotte Fair Housing Association to encourage housing desegregation and to make more decent housing available to low-income residents.
“I want Habitat supporters, staff and volunteers to know without a doubt that the mission of serving those in need of housing and hope will continue to remain front and center,” said Leonard. “As a volunteer with Habitat for many years, I know the importance of this work and of our mission. With our feet firmly planted as a Christian homebuilding ministry and with our eyes firmly focused on the future, we will not falter.”
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. Founded in 1976, Habitat for Humanity International and its affiliates in 100 countries have built and sold more than 175,000 homes to partner families with no-profit, zero-interest mortgages. For more information, visit www.habitat.org.
Habitat for Humanity International News Release