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How Hubris and Mismanagement Brought Down Dallas’ National Center for Policy Analysis

Even after the free-market think tank fired its founding president for 'sexual misconduct and breach of fiduciary duty,' things didn't seem to get much better.

The just-announced demise of Dallas’ National Center for Policy Analysis is a cautionary tale of sorts: a sad, sordid story demonstrating how C-level hubris and spectacular mismanagement can bring an organization to its knees, no matter how old or respected it might be.

The NCPA, a nonprofit, free-market think tank, had certainly gained respect during its 34 years, in large part for the work of its founding president, economist John C. Goodman. Goodman, often called the “Father of Health Savings Accounts,” was an expert on taxes, privatization, and healthcare who’d testified before Congress and advised the likes of George W. Bush and Newt Gingrich.

In 2014, however, the NCPA unceremoniously canned Goodman, citing “sexual misconduct and breach of fiduciary duty.” The “misconduct,” D CEO learned, involved an alleged relationship that Goodman had had with a female assistant. The allegations roiled the organization big-time, especially after he promoted the assistant to be the group’s HR director for a guaranteed three years, apparently aiming to avoid litigation for violating state and federal discrimination laws.

To succeed Goodman the NCPA hired Allen West, an outspoken former Florida congressman and a darling of the tea party. But not long after West arrived to be the CEO, a CFO was hired who wound up embezzling more than $600,000 from the group. A few months after his hiring, by the way, the financial officer was sentenced to 10 years’ probation stemming from a felony conviction in another embezzlement case.

Early last year the NCPA underwent still more leadership changes. West was named executive director and board vice chair, while James Amos Jr., a former CEO of Mail Boxes Etc., was brought in to serve as president and chief executive. And, the group continued struggling financially. According to its Form 990 for 2014, the latest we could find, the NCPA had $2.6 million in revenue and expenses totaling $3.5 million, leaving it $932,580 in the red for the fiscal year ending in September 2015. It also had 39 employees and 10 volunteers at the time, the filing said.

When the group closed its doors at the Parkway Office Center North building last week, Joe Barnett, its senior director of policy research, told The Dallas Morning News that “the difficult decision our board has taken due to our inability to recover financially and reputationally is directly traceable to the reckless actions of its former president and founder John Goodman.”

For his part, West said on Facebook that he’d raised nearly $900,000 for the NCPA during his time there. “However,” he added, explaining the group’s closing, “even with a superb history and other outstanding policy work focused on individual liberty and conservative economic opportunity policy, times are strained for the 501c(3) non-profit world. Not to mention there were some issues with conservative organizations being targeted during the Obama tenure.”

All of which makes a nice-sounding story, but of course had nothing to do with the shuttering of the National Center for Policy Analysis. Then again, the obfuscation just might be the perfect coda for this outfit after all.

A previous version of this story described Goodman’s relationship with the assistant as an “affair.” Goodman denies that he and the assistant ever had an affair.

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