Southwest Key CEO Juan Sanchez Steps Down
Embattled CEO/founder departs amid protests, investigations
By Mary Tuma,
2:45PM, Mon. Mar. 11, 2019
Juan Sanchez, embattled CEO of local nonprofit Southwest Key, is stepping down from his post.
Sanchez, who founded the group in 1987, has seen intense scrutiny for housing migrant children separated from their families under Trump’s zero tolerance policy, and for program violations and claims of abuse across its 27 youth shelters nationwide. A New York Times investigation additionally found alleged financial improprieties, including possible self-dealing with its top executives and stockpiling millions of taxpayer dollars. Sanchez, who received a comparatively lucrative salary compared to his non-profit counterparts, was the subject of protest, with organizers rallying in front of his Northwest Austin home last June.
“In consultation with Dr. Sanchez, the Board believes it’s time to begin a new chapter at Southwest Key,” said Board Chairman Orlando Martinez. “Our mission has never been more critical than it is today, and we must look carefully at what is required to evolve and grow as an organization.” Before starting a nationwide search for a permanent CEO, the group’s COO Joella Brooks will take over as interim CEO.
Sanchez slammed what he considers unfair representation of his non-profit as part of the reason for his exit. “Recent events have convinced me that Southwest Key would benefit from a fresh perspective and new leadership,” said Sanchez in a statement. “Widespread misunderstanding of our business and unfair criticism of our people has become a distraction our employees do not deserve. It’s time for new beginnings. I will dearly miss what has been my life’s work and passion for decades, but I can think of no better person to step into this role than Joella.”