James O’Keefe, founder and chairman of the conservative media outfit Project Veritas, has left his position within the company amid employee complaints. But its board insists that they didn’t fire him – they claim they didn’t even want him to resign.
On Monday, O’Keefe reportedly read his resignation letter aloud to his former team and the board at their Mamaroneck, New York headquarters, before sending a video of the speech to the rest of staff. The board had put O’Keefe on paid leave until President’s Day. “I was asked to be gone until the 20th,” he said. “It is now the 20th.”
He was placed on leave earlier this month after Project Veritas staffers sent the board an 11-page memo outlining erratic behavior from O’Keefe.
“I would describe Project Veritas’ current environment with this saying: ‘The beatings will continue until morale improves,’” one staffer wrote.
The employees alleged that O’Keefe subjected them to “verbal abuse” or “public crucifixions” in front of donors or other employees. He also reportedly used donor funds to pay for his theatrical ambitions, including at one point using $20,500 in “excess benefits” to play a lead role in a Virginia-based production of the musical “Oklahoma!”
O’Keefe’s leave started on Feb. 6. “James will be taking a few weeks of well-deserved PTO,” Project Veritas executive director Daniel Strack told staffers that day. When contacted by New York Magazine, Strack released a statement claiming that the board of directors are “constantly evaluating what the best path forward is for the organization,” without directly commenting on O’Keefe’s employment status.
But in the Monday speech O’Keefe claimed he has “no job at Project Veritas” and “no position based on what the board has done.”
He said that he wrote a letter to the board on Feb. 16 requesting that its members resign by the end of that week “or I’ll be forced to walk away.” As of Tuesday, none of the board members have done so.
They did, however, release a statement on Monday clarifying their position on the matter, as well as lobbing a few accusations of their own against the founder.
“The Board and Management made numerous attempts in the last 14 days to have a conversation with James, but he ignored our outreach and decided to instead leak private information to others, either by doing so himself or by proxy,” they wrote.
The board wrote that they were conducting a “preliminary review” into his conduct and found that he’d spent “an excessive amount of donor funds in the last three years on personal luxuries.”
“Contrary to many reports from today, James was suspended indefinitely pending the resolution of a fulsome investigation and clarity which will need to be provided by a third party investigative audit report,” they wrote.
However, they explained, they didn’t want O’Keefe to just up and leave. “We did not fire him, nor do we want him to resign,” they wrote. “We would like to continue conversations with James to resolve internal matters rather than litigate them publicly.”