The American Red Cross yesterday selected Mark Everson, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, to be its new president, filling the post as the charity restructures itself after intense criticism over its response to Hurricane Katrina.
The Red Cross had been led by an interim president, Jack McGuire, since December 2005, when Marsha Evans — a retired Navy rear admiral — resigned because of friction with the charity’s board of governors. Her resignation coincided with congressional hearings assailing the Red Cross’ uneven performance in Katrina’s aftermath.
Mr. Everson, 52, who will take the Red Cross post May 29, has served as IRS commissioner since May 2003. He previously was a vice president of SC International, a $2 billion food services company, and an executive with the French industrial group Pechiney.
“It is an honor and a privilege to become part of such a vital and enduring humanitarian service organization,” Mr. Everson said.
The announcement came as Congress considers legislation that would dramatically overhaul the way the Red Cross governs itself. The charity’s current 50-member board would be cut by more than half, and the influence of presidentially appointed overseers would be curbed under the legislation, which is expected to win approval this spring.
The reforms are intended to ease recurring clashes between board members and Red Cross management, and to address complaints that the organization was sometimes too bureaucratic and unaccountable.
The 125-year-old charity was by far the biggest player in responding to Katrina, raising $2 billion and mobilizing 235,000 volunteers while helping hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Yet it was sharply criticized for responding too slowly in some low-income, minority areas, for overreliance on inexperienced staff, and for reluctance to work closely with other nonprofits.
The Red Cross, in a candid internal report, acknowledged that shortcomings included overwhelmed volunteers, inflexible attitudes and inadequate anti-fraud measures.
Adm. Evans’ resignation in December 2005 marked the second time in three years that management-board feuding led to a leadership change after a national disaster. The previous president, Dr. Bernadette Healy, said she was forced to resign partly because of disputes with the board over whether money received after the September 11 attacks should be placed in a separate fund or a general disaster fund.
Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, the chairman of the board of governors, said Mr. Everson “will bring new energy and drive terrific results” once his tenure begins.
Last year, the Red Cross aided victims of a record 72,883 disasters, mostly fires, deploying nearly 1 million volunteers and 35,000 of its own employees.