Feed The Children President Larry Jones was fired Friday from the charity he founded 30 years ago. He plans to sue to try to get his job back. The charity’s board of directors voted to terminate Jones’ employment "effective immediately.” The directors did not give a reason. The charity paid Jones $230,323 a year, records show. "There’s going to be thousands of children go hungry this Christmas because of what they did,” Jones, 69, told The Oklahoman. The firing came after Jones admitted to the charity’s investigator and to police that he authorized the installation of hidden microphones in three executives’ offices last April. "I did nothing wrong there. … I knew what the law was… They used wiretapping as the excuse,” Jones said Friday. Jones has been the face of the Oklahoma City-based Christian relief organization. It reports collecting more than $1 billion in donations a year. He and his wife, Frances, were the main fundraisers, making repeated, often heart-wrenching televised pleas for money to help starving children in Africa and elsewhere. The charity has become widely known through the commercials and from celebrities’ support. Frances Jones was not fired. "This is the best two months of the year to raise money, and we’re down like everybody else is down. There’s more hungry children than ever, and they fire me,” Larry Jones said. "I was in such shock,” he said. "I thought they had enough foresight to see that this is by far the best time of the year to raise money. … This makes absolutely no sense — none at all. Already, people are calling, saying, "Larry, if you’re not at Feed The Children, we’re not going to do these projects.’ … Thirty years of hard work down the drain.” Jones said Friday he thinks directors fired him because he got a judge on Thursday to temporarily bar them from using charity funds to pay legal fees.
Leadership turmoilJones has been in a legal dispute with most of the charity’s board and top executives over who is really in charge there. A lawsuit about the power struggle was settled in August when Jones agreed to give up operational control. Those at odds with Jones include his own daughter, Larri Sue Jones, who is Feed The Children’s general counsel. Jones last December had several directors removed from the board. He had his daughter and other top executives fired. He acted after discovering they planned to force him to take a sabbatical. A judge later reinstated most of the ousted directors and the executives. Jones in April had hidden microphones installed in the offices of his daughter, the chief financial officer and the chief operating officer before they returned to their jobs, according to two of his attorneys. Oklahoma City police became involved Aug. 19 after a private investigator found "remnants of wiretapping devices” in the ceilings of the three offices. The owner of the company that installed the microphones told police his employees never could get a recorder to work. In Oklahoma, it is legal to secretly record one’s own conversations. It is illegal to bug offices to eavesdrop on others. Prosecutors have not made a decision yet on whether Jones will be charged. Jones only intended to record his own conversations when he was in those offices, his attorneys said. The executives in the past had misrepresented Jones’ comments when they would relate his remarks to others, said one attorney, David Ogle, who specializes in criminal defense cases. "Everything was set up to protect Larry … because of the misrepresentations,” Ogle said. "There’s absolutely no indication that anything was done illegal by Larry Jones. … Internally, there was a plan to squeeze Larry Jones out. This was a self-defense mechanism.” Jones on Tuesday passed a polygraph test about his intentions about the recording, Ogle also said. The test was done by a retired FBI agent. Jones will file a wrongful termination lawsuit next week in Oklahoma County District Court, said another attorney, Mark Hammons. Hammons said Jones cannot be fired over the microphone issue unless he is convicted of a felony for it. The attorney contended the firing is a breach of Jones’ employment contract. The attorney said Jones will ask in his lawsuit to be reinstated or to be compensated for the contract breach. Hammons sent a letter to Feed The Children on Friday, after the dismissal, demanding directors remove Jones’ name, likeness and voice from all advertisements. "The posters using Mr. Jones’ name and likeness must be removed and all stationery, billboards, buses, trucks or other things which bear Mr. Jones’ name or likeness must be withdrawn,” Hammons wrote. "All of these actions must be taken immediately.”