Operation Underground Railroad sees more changes after Tim Ballard’s ouster

“Going forward, our focus will be on identifying the right leader for the organization,” OUR said in a news release announcing new board member.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad, at the group's "Share Our Light" gala in Salt Lake City on Saturday November 5, 2016. OUR is continue to distance itself from Ballard.

Operation Underground Railroad is overhauling its board of directors, replacing several longtime members — many of them hand-picked and in some cases family members of OUR founder Tim Ballard — with members with fewer ties to the embattled Ballard.

The move comes as OUR faces civil lawsuits from multiple women alleging that Ballard engaged in sexual misconduct and sexual assault and the board was complicit in his acts by failing to take appropriate action to warn them or distance themselves from Ballard.

Among the new board’s first job will be choosing a chief executive officer to replace Ballard, who was ousted last June from the organization he started in 2013.

“Going forward, our focus will be on identifying the right leader for the organization, demonstrating our values in everything we do, and ensuring that OUR’s strong, resilient team of dedicated operators, staff and volunteers maintains a safe, respectful and professional work environment,” new board chairman Sean Vassilaros said in a statement. “We look forward to working together to expand OUR’s impact and ensure that this organization continues to thrive.”

Board members who are no longer with the nonprofit include — according to OUR’s 2020 tax filing — Mark Blake, who is Ballard’s brother-in-law, and Marc Reynolds, who is the brother of another Ballard brother-in-law.

Vassilaros — in addition to co-founding THREAD, a biotech platform — is a co-founder and CEO of KANNY, a human resources tech company and is chairman of the Hailey Mayz Foundation, a nonprofit that provides physical, speech and occupational therapies to special needs children. He is also an adjunct professor at Lehigh University in the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

One of those taking a new spot on the board is Jeff Frazier, an Army veteran and co-founder of THREAD. He is also the chair of StimPack, a nonprofit that is active in Haiti that until recently listed Ballard as a director. Ballard has since been replaced there with Vassilaros. On a blog posted to StimPack’s website, Frazier wrote that last April he was kidnapped by a street gang and held captive for 43 days and was tortured during the time.

Frazier has long-standing ties to OUR and Ballard, according to Vice News and local independent journalist Lynn Packer, who reported in 2020 that Frazier had been assigned with running an orphanage in Haiti and recorded a video highlighting the deplorable conditions at the facility.

According to OUR’s new release, the other new directors include:

  • Kelly Crouch, a strategic advisor to the Washington State Internet Crimes Against Children.

  • Dr. Jordan Greenbaum, a physician who specializes in working with children who are victims of abuse and trafficking.

  • Michele McBride, director of organization development at Keller Williams, a major real estate firm, and co-founder of the nonprofit ROAR, which fosters outdoor recreation opportunities for athletes with disabilities.

  • Matthew Millhollin, a 25-year law enforcement veteran with experience in child trafficking cases in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America.

Ballard founded OUR in 2013 and built it into a powerhouse that raised tens of millions of dollars a year and made Ballard a celebrity in some circles, including being the main character in the film “Sound of Freedom.”

OUR split with Ballard last June after an internal investigation was conducted into allegations of sexual misconduct.

This story is breaking and will be updated.