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Nice marks for Cedar Valley Humane Society overshadowed by Marion police probe; probe done; criminal charges recommended

In Humane Society, Marion on June 3, 2008 at 11:09 pm

The Cedar Valley Humane Society on Tuesday reported good marks from both the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Department on the performance of the Humane Society’s animal shelter at 7411 Mount Vernon Rd.

However, on Wednesday, Linn County Attorney Harold Denton confirmed that the Marion Police Department investigation into billing irregularities at the animal shelter is complete. Denton said the  Marion findings are now in his hands for review and the possible filing of criminal charges.

Meanwhile, Marion Police Chief Harry Daugherty on Wednesday reported that his investigators are recommending that Denton file felony theft charges against the management person at the animal shelter who has been responsible for billing. He did not name a name. “Somebody done there is responsible,” the chief said. He added that the Humane Society’s board of directors has been apprised of the status of the police investigation.

It was back in April that the Humane Society’s board of directors asked both the state and city agencies to take a look at its shelter operation following on the heels of a Marion Police Department raid in March in which investigators seized the shelter’s billing records.

In addition to the police raid, a former shelter employee filed a complaint with the state veterinary board, raising questions about the shelter’s treatment of animals. The former employee also alleged that the shelter was a “hostile workplace.”

According to Humane Society board member and spokeswoman Stephanie Holub, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship conducted a random animal welfare inspection at the shelter on May 20.

“All findings in the report were positive, including the condition of the housing facilities, premises, sanitation, veterinary care and records,” Holub reported.

A look at the state department’s report on Wednesday revealed as much. The state inspector gave appoval ratings on all 36 different items it reviewed at the shelter.

The Humane Society’s Holub said Michelle McMurray, an investigator with the city of Cedar Rapids’ Civil Rights Department, also conducted a review of the shelter and filed a report in May.

Holub quoted McMurray’s report: “It appears that the staff commitment to animals and the facilities’ customers is unwavering. There were no reported issues amongst staff members. … It is evident that the staff has a commitment to the animals and their jobs. Staff members appear to work well as a team.”

Holub noted that Doug Fuller, a Humane Society board member and retired Cedar Rapids police detective, continues to serve in an informal leadership role at the shelter. He is providing daily oversight of record-keeping, billing and personnel and volunteer activities, Holub said.

The board of directors has concluded it no longer needs an additional independent consultant to help with the shelter’s management, she said.

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  1. If the CVHS is located at 7411 Mt. Vernon Road SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403 and the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission investigated a compaint, then why did the Marion Police Department (versus the Cedar Rapids police department) raid and seize the shelter’s billing records? Who has jurisdiction?

  2. Well once again I’m just amazed at the lack of due diligence by the board of directors, one of whom an attorney and one a CPA. Having had some conversations with some folks in Des Moines, I’d strongly encourage the CVHS to get these problems taken care of in the hopes that the “real” problems (as if a Class A Felony isn’t a real prolem) never come out.

    This is truly their best outcome. And by the way, their spokeperson kinda sorta reminds me of this former Presidentail Press Secretary.

  3. John- Perhaps the board would benefit from having you join? You seem to know far more than anyone else! I think you would be a huge asset to the CVHS!

  4. I agree with Heidi and John. I have some experience with profit and non-profit boards of directors but I’m not an expert. I’m going to address solely non-profit organizations because I believe they are a completely different animal.

    I have found small non-profit organizations typically comprised of a diverse set of people who have a common problem to fix. They work so hard at solving the problem that they either (a) forget to perform their ministerial oversight functions, (b) ignore their ministerial oversight functions or (c) forget to educate themselves and just go with the flow. I have found that the vast majority of these folks to be fantastic people but once in a while you run into trouble.

    In my opinion many small non-profit organizations have board members that do not understand their oversight role and what is expected of them. This includes everyone from the high school drop-out to the PhD. These people are ignorant regarding this specific topic but they are not stupid. They simply do not know (or have the wrong understanding of) the role of the board. Unfortunately no one appears to be going out of their way to teach them. In my view their ignorance does not excuse them from learning and performing their role especially for professionals like attorneys and CPAs given that they likely have had some formal training or experience in this area. However I do have sympathy for the director that has a good heart but an empty head (i.e. ignorance).

    Thus, I agree with John that the oversight functions appear to be poor in this case. I also agree with Heidi that John would add a lot of value if he choose to become involved (or increased his involvement). What is the solution? I don’t know.

  5. Unfortunately, we only know what the media wants us to know. I know several board memebers, and they are good people. What I meant towards John, was if he doesn’t like what the current board is doing, perhaps he should join, or become involved. What good is it to complain about it, and then do nothing. If John THINKS he knows more than everyone else, perhaps he could be part of the solution. Or just continue to write comments on news articles…

  6. As an employee of a different non-profit organization, let me also offer you this insight. I don’t think it’s fair to blame the Board for something like this(assuming this even goes to trial AND assuming the person is found guilty). The Board of Directors is responsible for the oversight of the organization (budget, fundraising, hiring & firing of the director, etc.) but they are not the ones who are there working day in and day out. They also are not the ones issuing invoices and paying bills. Do you really expect them to approve EVERYTHING that goes out the door? I think that’s unreasonable to expect of any Board. No matter how experienced the Board is in managing a non-profit, they cannot possibly know EVERYTHING that happens. That’s why there is staff in place to manage the daily responsibilities. This again is still assuming that the case goes to trial and that the person is found to be guilty.

  7. Heidi – Please allow me to respond and also thank you for your suggestions. Having said this, the CVHS does carry non-profit officer d&o, but it has never had an audited financial statement. I would never (and have actually disassociated myself from non-profits both as a contributor, volunteer and baord member) have served on any organization’s board that refused to get an audited financial statement due to cost.

    In the case of CVHS, it was suggested several times to them, both by board members, past executive officers and most recently public officials.

    This should be in their minutes, and they might or might not release that information to you if you requested it.

    I am extremely impressed that persumably Mr. Stone went immediately to one of the best (if not the best loacl criminal attorney) in Cedar Rapids.

    I could keep going on here, but when I or my trust has given funds, I have volunteered or served on a board, I do this in an altruistic fasion.

    What I mean, is that if I was Bill Stone, I would not bill back the organizatoin for the legal work provided. (I do not know if this is being done, but if I was on the board and it wasn’t, I’d have my public relations person make that known immediately).

    Heidi – I have no “dog” in this fight. My suggestions are my opinion on how this valuable facilty can survive (not fail).

    Also, if I commit something to writng, even though it is my opinion, I’d assume this is all pretty factually based.

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