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Humane Society silent on recent shakeup
Kitsap Humane Society’s board of directors remained quiet this week after allegations of mismanagement mounted against the nonprofit.
An online petition started last week on the website www.change.org demanded that the Humane Society’s nine-member board of directors be elected positions, voted on by donors and volunteers.
The online petition raises more questions about an organization still reeling after the sudden departure of executive director Sean Compton.
The petition purports to represent “The Donors, Tax Payers and Citizens of Kitsap County on Behalf of Organizing Senior Staff, Teamsters and Volunteers at the Humane Society,” and it alleges a variety of abuses perpetrated by the board, including:
• misuse of tax and donor dollars
• cronyism in choosing contractors for construction projects
• ignoring or stifling staff complaints about financial management
• tampering with board meeting minutes
The petition also called for — among other things — an audit of tax and donor dollars, minutes of board meetings, a complete separation of personal pet-related businesses from organization governance, and an explanation of why the same contractors show up over and over. It is addressed to the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners; city councils in Port Orchard, Bremerton, Bainbridge Island and Poulsbo; Invisible Fence Brands Peninsulas, where KHS board president Karyn Kline works; and Speak up for Horses.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 259 individuals had signed the online petition.
Phone calls to board members, including Kline, by the Port Orchard Independent were not returned.
Following the departure of Sean Compton, the board appointed Abby Ouimet, the organization’s director of public relations and development, and Steve Graham, the shelter’s finance and administrative director, to be in charge of the shelter’s day-to-day operations while the board interviews for interim executive director.
Ouimet said she is aware of the online petition, but could not address any of the allegations made.
“We are focused on our mission and focused on our animals,” Ouimet said Tuesday. “We want the community to stay focused on our mission.”
She also said she could not address personnel changes, including Compton’s departure, in any great detail. She said the board of director’ wishes him well, and that his effort and enthusiasm for the shelter will be missed.
“On behalf of all the staff, we miss him very much and I want to say he was well respected among us,” she said. “Everyone here got to experience the changes he brought forth and we hope to continue his mission. We want to continue the things Sean put in place.”
When pressed about the allegations — including potential mismanagement of taxpayer funds — Ouimet again stated she could not comment.
Concern about the state of administration at the Humane Society has apparently gone beyond an online petition. On Jan. 31, Kitsap County Commissioner Robert Gelder sent a letter to Kline inquiring about the reorganization of the Humane Society’s administration and any impacts it might have on ongoing contract negotiations for animal control services with Kitsap County.
The county, along with the city of Port Orchard and other cities, negotiates a contract with the Humane Society for animal control services. In 2011, the county paid $428,883 for animal control. The City of Port Orchard — which has a contract signed through 2014 — will pay $37,908 in 2012.
The letter from Gelder said the commissioners had a few questions in need of clarification as contract negotiations for 2012 services were ongoing. The board asked:
• What is the status of animal control services for unincorporated Kitsap County?
• Who is our current contact for animal control questions and contract negotiation?
• Is the transfer of pet licensing back to the Humane Society still of interest in this negotiation?
Commissioner Charlotte Garrido said the letter was sent to the Humane Society board mostly as a clarification of where the two parties stood moving forward. She said Kline had responded to the letter in a message left after hours last Friday, saying she hoped to review plans with the commissioners in the coming weeks.
“The terms of our current agreement are being met,” Garrido said.
Garrido said the Kitsap Humane Society has a responsibility to be transparent in its actions and to keep the public informed of their plans moving forward. She is aware of the online petition and is keeping close watch on its progress.
“There are a number of people expressing serious concerns,” she said. “They (the Humane Society) are a nonprofit. They need to be respectful of keeping people up to date.”