Black Girls Code founder sues nonprofit after she was removed

  • Black Girls Code’s founder, Kimberly Bryant, has filed a lawsuit against the tech nonprofit.
  • BGC suspended Bryant in December following allegations of workplace misconduct, which she denied.
  • On Friday, BGC announced Bryant’s resignation. Bryant told Insider she believed the move was retaliation.

Tech nonprofit Black Girls Code has kicked out its founder, Kimberly Bryant, and is now facing a lawsuit seeking her removal.

On Friday, Black Girls Code announced that Bryant had been fired as CEO and removed from the nonprofit’s board. The announcement came a day after Bryant filed a lawsuit in federal court against the nonprofit, alleging she was wrongfully suspended from her position and that BGC chairman investor Heather Hiles attempted to seize control of the nonprofit’s funds.

Bryant, an engineer who previously worked in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, founded Black Girls Code in 2011. The nonprofit runs workshops, summer camps and other programs to teach girls technology skills in areas such as web design and app development. The programming has reached more than 30,000 participants, according to the organization.

Black Girls Code’s board had suspended Bryant in December and announced it was investigating allegations of “inappropriate workplaces”. Several former employees told Insider that Bryant berated employees, forced them to arrange last-minute events and programming beyond their capacity, and kept the nonprofit’s finances hidden.

Bryant denied these claims and accused BGC’s board, led by Hiles, of orchestrating a coup.

In its press release announcing Bryant’s resignation, the board said it had closed its investigation but did not provide details of its findings. Bryant told Insider that she believes she was fired in response to her federal lawsuit and that the investigation found no wrongdoing on her part.

“There was nothing to substantiate the allegations against me and I was still terminated,” Bryant said. “I don’t think these board members care about the community, the girls and the interests we serve.”

In his suit, Bryant accuses several BGC board members of engaging in a form of self-dealing by directing accounts containing $38 million in donations, saying they had “expressed a desire to use the donated funds to invest in business ventures where they have a controlling interest.” She claims the board members weaponized workplace issues to take control of her Wells Fargo bank account after her suspension.

Bryant’s lawsuit names several people as defendants, including Hiles, and board members Sherman Whites, an adviser to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Stacy Brown-Philpot, former CEO of TaskRabbit; and Sofia Mohammed, BGC’s Interim CEO. Whites and Brown-Philpot served with Hiles on the special committee of BGC’s board that voted to suspend Bryant and launch an investigation into her conduct.

Wells Fargo is also named as a defendant: Bryant claims the bank neither informed nor sought her permission to turn over the account containing donor funds.

Bryant is seeking $3 million in punitive damages from the defendants, excluding the Black Girls Code, and for the removal of Hiles, Whites and Brown-Philpot from BGC’s board.

She had previously filed a lawsuit in California’s Alameda County Superior Court in January against BGC, Hiles, Whites and Brown-Philpot alleging defamation, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of statute.

The recent federal suit repeats several allegations from that filing, including that Hiles sought to use the nonprofit for personal gain by pursuing a partnership with Udemy, where they serve as chairman, and by blocking the formation of an endowment for BGC because they attempted to have the funds invested in their own venture capital company.

A representative for Black Girls Code provided Insider with copies of affidavits from Hiles, Whites and Brown-Philpot from the Alameda lawsuit, in which they deny Bryant’s allegations. Wells Fargo did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the board members’ affidavits, Bryant attempted to obstruct the investigation into BGC’s workplace culture and maintained control of the nonprofit’s bank account and important documents. They have filed a motion to dismiss Bryant’s defamation claim under California’s anti-SLAPP law, which is designed to prevent the use of courts and lawsuits to intimidate those who exercise their First Amendment rights.

“She has filed two frivolous lawsuits filled with falsehoods about the defendant’s personal conduct and riddled with obvious legal deficiencies,” the motion for Bryant said.

Are you an insider with insights to share? Consult April Joyner at ajoyner@insider.com or on Signal at 646-287-8761 from a malfunctioning device. Open DMs on Twitter @aprjoy.

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