updated 7/14/2006 7:24:45 PM ET 2006-07-14T23:24:45

The head of a Katrina charity established by former Presidents Bush and Clinton resigned under duress Friday after the exodus of seven members from one of its committees.

In a statement, the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund announced that "in the best interests of the mission of The Fund," its executive director, Mary Ann Wyrsch. agreed to step down.

Her resignation comes after the abrupt departure of seven out of nine religious leaders serving on a committee charged with disbursing $20 million out of the charity's coffers to hurricane-damaged churches.

The departing committee members, including several nationally known ministers, said they were disappointed by how they had been treated by the charity's Washington staff. They claim the staff in Washington repeatedly undermined their grant-making decisions, sending money to churches without properly investigating them.

In the statement, the fund's co-chairs — former Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans and former Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman — said they "respect the concerns of the ministers." They added that they "share their desire for our actions to work as well as possible for the churches and congregations in need."

Those who have resigned from the committee in the past week include Bishop T.D. Jakes, the Dallas megachurch pastor who has been hailed as the "black Billy Graham," and the Rev. William H. Gray III, the former president of the United Negro College Fund.

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