A longtime senior aide at United Way America offers an earnest but diffuse appreciation of the improprieties whose disclosure early last year convulsed the high-profile charity as well as other pillars of the philanthropic establishment. Glaser provides a critical rundown on William Aramony, who was driven from the United Way presidency following press reports of his princely pay, imperious management, and majestic life style. The author also reviews how UWA's operating procedures (akin to those of a trade association that sets the pace for, and collects dues from, autonomous local constituents) permitted its high-handed CEO to make a virtually private preserve of the headquarters organization. Early on, Glaser points out, the charismatic Aramony (who reached the top rung of UWA in 1970) resolved to put social service and good works on a more businesslike basis. Among other things, this decision enabled him to recruit a blue-chip board of governors from the corporate world and to enhance the professional status as well as compensation of key staff members. Lulled into a false sense of security by Aramony's putatively pragmatic initiatives, United Way's stewards exercised precious little oversight. Nor were pampered underlings inclined to blow the whistle on their openhanded boss despite his conspicuous shortcomings, which ranged from expense-account excesses through cronyism and a bent for sexual exploitation of female subordinates. Perhaps too close to the scandal (which forced him to resign as head of United Way's international division), the author does a poor job of blending anecdotal exposÇ with hesitantly exculpatory by-the-numbers briefings on UWA's structure and mission. While he proposes sound reforms that could restore public confidence, his text can most charitably be described as a hodgepodge. A disappointingly inconclusive postmortem on a worthy cause's fall from grace.
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