This is going to be a tough read. It’s perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
Last week, The 6th Branch learned through a third party that Board Member and Operation Oliver liaison Earl Johnson has been dishonest about the extent and nature of his military record. He has since admitted to us that he is a veteran, but he served less than a year in the Army. Additionally, contrary to what we were told, he was never an Army Ranger.
As a veteran led organization, we obviously perceive this as an integrity violation of the highest degree.
As the Board Chair, I called a full meeting of the board within 72-hours of his admission and after extended discussion, we agreed to ask Earl for his resignation.
He did so immediately via this statement: “With love and respect I resign as an executive board member of The 6th Branch effective immediately. There are aspects of my professional history, including my military record, which I have exaggerated, fabricated, or otherwise misrepresented. Because of this, it is in everyone’s best interest for me to step down. I deeply apologize for any damage my actions may have caused. I will continue to work to improve Oliver as a resident, volunteer, and community activist. Thank you for your support in what I believe is a wonderful community.”
Because Earl admitted to misrepresenting his military service, T6B hasn’t independently investigated this matter nor do we intend to. We have, however, gone through our own records meticulously and found nothing out of place. We have also stripped his official affiliations with The 6th Branch because he no longer represents us.
Personally, this is a very confusing and painful time. I believe it is for others in the T6B family as well. As a relatively young organization we’ve always operated on goodwill and from the beginning we never once asked any board member to provide proof of their military credentials. If that was a misstep, we own it and will take another look at this policy moving forward.
We don’t know what the future holds for Earl, and it’s probably too early to say if and how any potential future relationship with him will unfold.
In the meantime, what I do know is that our staff and volunteers are continuing to execute weekly Friday service projects as we work toward building a cool bike park for the children of Oliver. I also know we just broke ground on what will become an urban farm to address food insecurity. It is our sincere hope that this bump in our organizational history doesn’t damage our ability to serve – especially in the Oliver neighborhood where we’ve worked so hard to help the residents gain a foothold on recovery.
As a founding member of T6B, I’ve never been more motivated or determined to see our mission through. I watched our board of directors respond to this matter with the utmost professionalism and composure. Our Executive Director, Dave Landymore, had himself one hell of a week and it reminded us of why he’s our guy. It’s a reminder of how far we’ve come and I am confident that we’ll bounce back from this.
If you have any questions about who we are or what we’re doing, come to Oliver on Friday. Dave will be down there with some shovels along with some other great people trying to improve the condition of a community that we’ve come to love dearly. Or, come out on Sunday, as we provide the folks of Oliver fresh produce for free with our partner Gather Baltimore. That’s who we are and that’s what we do – and some people thought it was cool that we started as veterans leading the way. Now they think it’s cool that we’re veterans and non-veterans simply working to make a difference. That, I know without a doubt, is absolutely true.