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The Heinz Endowments departures: Answers needed

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The local nonprofit/philanthropic community's concerns about high-profile departures from The Heinz Endowments will only grow — as will speculation and rumor — unless the organization forthrightly addresses what's going on.

This week's email statement from Robert Vagt about leaving as president certainly didn't shed the sort of light that's needed, merely noting his six years with The Heinz Endowments and his upcoming 67th birthday. It thus could not ease minds already concerned by August's departures of Caren Glotfelty, senior director of the environmental program, and Douglas L. Root, communications director.

Sources have told the Trib that board member and “green” alternative-energy advocate Andre Heinz clashed with Ms. Glotfelty over a grant to establish the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, which aims to bring together environmentalists and shale-gas industry leaders to jointly promote safe drilling. The endowments caught flak over that grant from the liberal Public Accountability Initiative, which also disliked Mr. Vagt's ties to the oil and gas industry, including his seat on the board of America's largest natural-gas pipeline operator.

As one of the nation's 50 biggest foundations and the Pittsburgh area's second biggest, awarding $60 million annually, The Heinz Endowments should explain the departures. Otherwise, the organization leaves stakeholders and nonprofits that rely on it — and a region it affects profoundly — in the dark.

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