The United Way Scandal: An Insiders Account of What Went Wrong and Why

NON FICTION BOOK REVIEW  

417 words

Title: The United Way Scandal: An Insiders Account 
of What Went Wrong and Why;  by John S. Glaser; John 
Wiley & Sons; ISBN 0-471-59114-9; Hardcover; 302 pages; 
US$34.95, CAN$48.95
 
Reviewer: A. T. Connellan, "In the pages of The United Way 
Scandal, there are few answers, and many questions, but 
it is a good place to start."
 
The United Way scandal in your own home town?

The ethical crisis that erupted in the spring of 1992, very nearly 
destroyed the world's largest fund-raising charity, and subsequently 
had profound repercussions on the non-profit sector, is the subject 
of this fascinating narrative. Despite the author's inside view, his 
book fails to provide frank answers to some disturbing questions.  

John S.Glaser was the Chief Operating Officer of United Way 
International, and for more than two decades an employee and 
close confidant of William Aramony who ran United Way of America. 
Aramony whose ego-driven self promotion,  excess hubris, and 
flexible ethics, is blamed for the charity's downfall. 

The book is a chronological account of that close alliance. So why 
didn't John Glaser blow the whistle during those years instead of 
quietly cooperating in the scenario, only to come clean in a semi 
tell-all account after the ship had gone down? It doesn't say much 
for the author's integrity. 

Instead it was The Washington Post and ABC's "Nightline" who 
forced the story into the public's consciousness and brought about 
Aramony's resignation as the most powerful non-profit czar in the world.

Glaser's account is much more than what went wrong with the United 
Way, it is also a definitive history of the voluntary sector of north 
american society. He writes it well, and backs up his text with 
chapter-ending References and Summaries, and a detailed index. 

Glaser is aided by 23 pages of a rather incongruous foreword and 
afterward written by a lawyer named Bruce R. Hopkins, whose 
shameless spin-doctored rationalization deserves to be ignored. 
Not the balance of the book however. 

The author is tentative in his critique of the role of the Board of 
Governors in this fiasco The antidote to executive excesses is 
good governance. The members of the United Way's boards of 
governors failed miserably to provide a responsible watch-dog to 
Aramony's runaway free wheeling. They didn't provide even the 
minimal due diligence that is required of those who serve. 

Could this happen in your home town? Of course it does. While 
John Glaser's story doesn't pass the "smell test," it will alert all 
of us who give without question. It is time to examine annual 
reports and ask, who gets what, and where does the balance go? 

In the pages of The United Way Scandal, there are few answers, 
and many questions, but it is a good place to start. 


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