Society board hasn’t answered questions

Tamara S. Olsen, Clinton

I am a lifetime member and financial contributor to the Clinton Humane Society and am gravely concerned about the future if current board members do not resign.

Some believe the recent demand is because the administrator was fired. This is partially true. However, people met to discuss the legality of questionable board decisions only three days after the Sept. 18 meeting, organizing and deciding a course of action 18 days before Jean Regenwether was fired.

The decision to replace a highly qualified, experienced administrator by placing ads for a high school graduate or someone with a GED led to our group acting swiftly to prevent more harm. We were too late to save the lives of more than 80 cats that had to be euthanized on Oct. 24; I suspect their untimely deaths were hastened by sloppy isolation procedures implemented by the interim administrator, who remains on the board.

On Oct. 19, my attorney made a written request to obtain copies of minutes and financial statements; the board has not yet responded. The board has been openly hostile to requests for minutes and financial statements and has disregarded the absolute right of members to inspect these documents.

More than three dozen people witnessed the dysfunctional, mostly silent board on Oct. 16. It was disappointing to watch so many members leave in disgust as their questions went unanswered. The board needs to address these issues openly and directly.

How will the shelter continue without the support of significant financial contributors who have asked for the board’s resignation? How does the board plan to address more than 40 dues-paying members who have called for them to resign? Did the board approve the transfer of funds by a board member to the bank where she works? Who was managing the asset fund as it decreased by 50 percent? If Sheryl Ziegler was not on the board when she received a 10 percent commission on grants, why does her name appear as board secretary in February 2005?

Why is the board concerned that members have access to the membership list yet not question why non-member Lou Paaske had the list Oct. 16, along with a briefcase full of financial information? Did Paaske receive documents not made available to members in good standing? Do board members intend to use shelter funds to hire a defense attorney?

The board didn’t simply make small procedural errors, but deliberately violated the spirit of Iowa’s Principles and Practices for Charitable Nonprofit Excellence. Those who questioned the board, like Maggie Bielenberg, were voted off on a technicality. This is far more serious than a procedural error.

The public should be very concerned that there was no notice posted of the 2006 Annual Meeting. The general membership was unaware of the meeting and had no opportunity to vote on board members. The current members are nominating, electing and governing themselves.

The board members must resign. If the public doesn’t get involved now it shouldn’t complain about higher taxes later.

Time for the society board to resign

Sandi Van Every, Clinton

Being a lifetime member of the Clinton Humane Society and a volunteer, supporter, donor and past board member, allow me to comment on the inner turmoil I have experienced.

Something has been going on for several years and only recently came to light in the wake of the removal of Maggie Bielenberg from the board and the firing of Administrator Jean Regenwether.

With the future now in jeopardy, you would think board members would care enough about the animals to step down and allow the membership to vote in a fresh board who will play by the rules. But this board seems to think it can survive without the big donors who are walking away because of the cards under the table.

The board’s recent letter appeared as a frantic effort to keep their heads above water. It’s a sad day when a recently elected board member stated she wanted to be on the board because she “wanted to have more power.”

The constant infighting and non-ethical conduct have been going on since 2002 when I was a member. This was the cause of the recent resignation of several members. The board has not put into place a strategic or long-term plan for the future. Why, when questioned about Bielenberg’s removal, did the president answer, “because she asks too many questions”? What is this board hiding?

Recently there was an outbreak of ringworm in the shelter and cats had to be euthanized. When one of the board members was asked to help she went into the office and shut the door. She was asked to help clean and she actually left the building. Another board member’s wife, who has an office at the shelter, had to leave because she could not handle watching.

You’re going to have to step up to the plate now that you’ve gotten rid of the people who cared, showed compassion and were willing to get the job done, even through it broke their hearts. The animals certainly haven’t asked for and cannot afford to have this turmoil. With three staff members now gone, how can the excellent care be sustained?

This board has a long history of these types of problems and it appears that the state may have to intervene to ensure this board resigns. It seems for the betterment of the CHS they should resign immediately if they have the slightest concern for the animals.

New people with new ideas and a fresh outlook should be voted onto board in a legitimate election by the membership. As it stands now, how can this board be trusted with any decisions? It was made clear at the October board meeting, which I attended, that members and donors no longer trust the decisions this present board is making.

I invite all dues paying members to attend the Nov. 20 meeting at the shelter at 6 p.m. We need the support at this very crucial point to help pave the way for the future.

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