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Posted at 6:40 PM ET, 03/ 8/2010

Local 'Make-a-Wish' leader is replaced

By Erica Johnston


The local chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation on Monday replaced its president after an investigation by its national headquarters into staff complaints about management style, and on the heels of the resignations of all but one of the 20-person local board of directors.

The departure of Catherine C. Martens after a little more than two years as head of the Bethesda-based Mid-Atlantic chapter was due to "unacceptable workplace conduct," said national spokesman Paul Allvin from Phoenix. "It did not involve financial improprieties or the granting of wishes or criminal conduct," he said.

Late last year, the headquarters reviewed staff complaints about what they deemed a hostile and angry working environment, according to staff statements shared with reviewers and The Washington Post. The local chapter has experienced high turnover, Alvin confirmed, among its 26 fulltime staff.

Martens, reached at home Monday, declined to say whether she left voluntarily, "but I would be happy to talk about this as it progresses.” She would not comment on what complaints staff may have raised.

The most recent tax returns for the local chapter shows Martens earned $190,000 a year as president. Last April, she also became chairman of an umbrella group of 21 local charities that broke away from the local United Way and formed Community 1st. Martens said she retains that position.

The local chapter covers the District, Maryland, Delaware and Northern Virginia and has granted about 330 wishes each of the past three years, according to national records. It had public donations of $4.6 million in the fiscal year ending in August 30, 2008.
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Susan Sewell, of the headquarters staff, will be interim director.

-- Mary Pat Flaherty

By Erica Johnston  | March 8, 2010; 6:40 PM ET
Categories:  DC, Maryland  
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