Kimberly Bryant, the founder and recently ousted CEO of Black Girls Code, has filed a federal lawsuit alleging the organization wrongfully terminated her due to a power grab from members of the non-profit organization’s board.
According to a report by Business Insider, the lawsuit names BGC board chair Heather Hiles, board members Sherman Whites and Stacy Brown-Philpot, and interim executive director Sofia Mohammed as defendants.
Bryant is also suing Wells Fargo for failing to obtain her permission to hand over the Black Girls Code bank account with donor funds to the organization.
The filing is the latest development in an ongoing saga that became public when Bryant was suspended with pay in Dec. 2021 after three employees resigned and allegations of “workplace impropriety” arose against her.
The San Francisco-based non-profit announced it would permanently part ways with Bryant on Friday, Aug. 12.
“As BGC enters a new chapter, the mission remains the same. ‘We would like to thank Kimberly for her contributions as the founder and CEO.’ Heather Hiles, Board Chair,” the tech non-profit tweeted. “Ms. Bryant will move on from CEO & board member of BGC. The entire community wishes her well on her next endeavor.”
Bryant – who founded the tech non-profit in 2011 to ensure Black girls ages 7-17 would not be left behind in obtaining technology skills – is not going quietly.
“Dearest community, thank you in advance for your support. Please know that I was wrongly removed from my organization and the board of the organization I founded today without cause or an opportunity to participate in a vote of these actions,” Bryant tweeted the same day in response. “My attorney + I will issue statement.”
“Ten+ years of founding and building an organization to a $40M+ international brand which fundamentally changed the course of an industry and ousted without not a penny of severance offered. Sounds like retaliation?” Bryant tweeted four days later.
“There was nothing to substantiate the claims against me, and I was still terminated,” Bryant said in a separate statement. “I don’t think these board members have care for the community, the girls, and the interests we serve.”
In a statement to TechCrunch, Bryant’s attorney said her termination is “an unfortunate culmination of a hostile takeover initiated by Board Member Heather Hiles of the non-profit that Ms. Bryant created from the ground up, with Hiles’ ultimate desire to gain control of over $30 million in donated philanthropic funds.”
In her lawsuit, Bryant accuses Hiles of seeking “to capitalize on BGC’s growth and increased funding for her own personal gain” after the organization’s revenue increased rapidly from $1.5 million in 2019 to $30 million in 2021.
Bryant further accused Hiles of wanting to enter Black Girls Code into a partnership with Udemy, where she is a director, then redirect the funds to a venture capital firm where she is a managing partner.
Hiles did not personally respond to the allegations, but the organization’s statement denied the claims.
“The allegations in Ms. Bryant’s lawsuit are false, and BGC intends to vigorously defend itself against those claims. Specifically, Ms. Bryant’s claim about the Wells Fargo account is wrong. It is not her personal account. Donations made to BGC belong to the organization, not to Ms. Bryant personally,” the statement read. “BGC worked with Wells Fargo to ensure that donor funds were held in an account proper for a non-profit corporation.”
“The Board believes the decision to remove Ms. Bryant as CEO and as a board member is in the best interests of the organization, the girls it serves, its employees, and its donors,” the statement continued. “BGC has been focusing its efforts on moving forward and expanding on the success of the organization since its inception.”
Bryant persisted in her claims.
“Heather Hiles’ attempt to destroy BGC, which I built to help girls, especially girls of color, to enter into the high-tech industry of computer coding across the world, hurts me to my core,” Bryant said. “My painful feelings are for the girls who will suffer from Heather Hiles’ aggressive greed to dominate and destroy this beautiful community created to uplift and celebrate Black women and girls.”