CLINTON — Initially wondering whether to send in a veterinarian to protect the city’s stake in the Clinton Humane Society, the Clinton City Council on Tuesday instead directed the city’s animal control officer to keep a close eye on the care being given to animals housed at the shelter.

Several members of the Clinton Humane Society attended the council’s committee of the whole meeting to advise the council to ask the shelter’s board of directors some serious questions as the city gets ready to enter the budget process early next year.

While the city pays the Humane Society a $22,500 annual subsidy and a fee for each animal the city brings to the shelter — about $18,000 this year — the Humane Society operates as its own organization.

Humane Society members and volunteers in recent weeks have alleged turmoil within the Humane Society, claiming its board of directors is not following its bylaws when it comes to nominating board members and holding an annual meeting at which dues-paying members are invited to attend.

Maggie Bielenberg, a former Humane Society board member and longtime volunteer, said she was voted off the board a few months ago and believes it was because she was asking questions about how the directors govern. She also said some meeting minutes are missing and may not have been recorded.

“I was greatly surprised my inquiries were met with such defense,” she said.

Tamara Olsen, a member and major financial contributor to the Humane Society’s operation, also believes the board has not followed the nominating process and that the general membership had no opportunities to vote. She is concerned that the board has hired a legal firm from the Quad-Cities and has threatened possible legal action against those who speak out.

Mary James, another Humane Society volunteer, said she is one of several members served with a cease and desist letter from the law firm because of her involvement with the Save our Shelter group. She said the membership deserves answers.

“There are warning flags popping up all over,” she said, adding that before the city allocates money to the shelter it should “take a good look at what is going on up on the hill.”

At-large Councilman Ron Mallicoat said he is very concerned about the turmoil.

“We can’t want ’til funding next year to make an impact,” he said. He requested a meeting between the city and the Humane Society’s board.

But Acting City Administrator Matt Brisch said the city recognizes an arm’s length agreement with the shelter, which is an independent body. Brisch, also the city attorney, said he is concerned with the idea of the city stepping in and getting involved with the nuts and bolts operation of the shelter and he doesn’t want the city to assume liability.

At-large Councilman Mark Vulich asked if the city can check the facility. Brisch said the city can made a request to do so and then hire a veterinarian to look around.

Jean Regenwether, who had served as the Humane Society’s director until she was fired a few weeks ago, said the city can be assured the animals are receiving good care. She said while the staff may be stretched thin due to the loss of volunteers and staff members, those still there know how to take care of animals. That led Vulich to withdraw his motion for a veterinarian to check the premises.

The council then decided the best thing for the city to do is direct Animal Control Officer Kristi Shaw to keep an eye on the care being received by the animals she brings to the shelter.