Blumenthal Blasts Conn Humane Society Board Practices, Says Hurt Animals And Staff

March 30, 2010
By

Connecticut Humane Society’s New Chairman Chris White predicted that the Attorney General’s investigation will clear the board and its former head of any wrongdoing and will show that accusations made in the last few months were false, or trivial.

Wrong.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is releasing a scathing interim report on his investigation, which gives credence to complaints I provided his office from fired Connecticut Humane Society workers. His complete report on the 129-year-old Newington-based facility in included in this column.

The resignation last week of Richard Johnston, as president/director and chairman of the board, does not solve the society’s problems, Blumethal wrote, urging the board members to use this opportunity to change its management style to reduce the number of animals that are euthanized and improve the treatment of its workers.

Blumenthal made special note about how many of the board members have apparent conflicts of interests as they or their businesses received no-bid contracts. He suggested that the board adopt a policy requiring at least two bids in cases board members are offering their services – as half of them had done, including White, who received more than $30,000 in advertising for his publications.

“The AGO (Attorney General’s Office) has received credible allegations concerning inadequate care provided to CHS animals.

“For example, pregnant dogs receive insufficient care, sometimes leading to loss of life of mothers and puppies. Cats with upper respiratory infections and dogs with heart-worm, both treatable diseases, are euthanized to avoid the cost of extended stays and additional treatment. And at times, there is insufficient staff to even properly walk the dogs and clean the cages.”

“Given these allegations concerning animal welfare at CHS, the AGO is deeply concerned that the CHS Board has maintained an overly strict spending policy limit. It would be well within applicable legal standards of care for the CHS Board to relax this strict percentage spending policy. The AGO would deem it consistent with fiduciary obligations and financial prudence to do so,” Blumenthal wrote.

Blumenthal said he has “grave concerns” of letting one person – like Johnston – be both the full-time paid director and chairman of the board, selecting all its members, as Johnston did for 20 years.

“Chairman’s oversight responsibilities with the President’s day-to-day management of the organization creates serious potential for conflicts in the fiduciary and management roles of both positions,” Blumenthal wrote.

“The lack of true oversight created by such a situation is an open invitation for both a stagnancy of charitable energy and an inability for the Board of Directors to appropriately fulfill their fiduciary obligations.”

As the result, Blumenthal wrote:

“One of the primary subjects of complaints is that dysfunctional management at CHS that is having a tangible, adverse effect on the welfare of animals in CHS’s care.

Specifically, the allegations include the following:

• CHS’s practices of preferring cost savings to animal welfare;

• aggressive euthanasia policies;

• aggressive use of bleach in animal occupied areas;

• special treatment for senior management for pet adoptions; and

• managerial disregard for leash rules at the shelter.

In addition, the AGO has received numerous allegations of management hostility towards employees who voice concerns about the care and placement provided to the animals in CHS’s care, including the verbal reprimand of an employee who objected to the placement of a potentially dangerous dog in close confines with visitors and the placement of a “hold” on a dog, consistent with CHS official policy, that was perfectly matched for an adoptee family.

In addition, it is alleged that a volunteer was fired for his failure to abide by the unwritten CHS policy to “hold” an imminently adoptable Labrador puppy aside for management’s personal use.

As noted above, the AGO has also received written allegations that CHS management has unfairly fired and placed on probation individuals who have participated in union activities by attempting to join Machinists’ Union (IAMAW). These allegations implicate the protections of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) 29 U.S.C. 151 et seq., administered by the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”). Under the NLRA, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate

or retaliate against employees for unionization efforts or for an employer to otherwise interfere with attempts to unionize. 29 U.S.C. Sec. 158(a)(3).

The AGO is referring allegations of unfair labor practices to the National Labor Relations Board in Hartford for its attention and investigation.

The AGO’s investigation remains on-going with respect to these and other issues. It is apparent, however, that these complaints and the potential for a public perception of pervasive management dysfunction within CHS threaten to jeopardize its fundraising efforts and the accomplishment of its important charitable purposes.”

Also, the allegations against CHS could result in lawsuits:

“If true, the alleged management misconduct at CHS would violate the letter and spirit of its own mission statement and could expose CHS to litigation and/or potential liability, detracting from its reputation and fundraising
ability and requiring significant expenditures on legal expenses,” Blumenthal wrote.

The attorney general said its time for a complete review and possible overhaul of the CHS:

“In short, while the AGO has yet to complete its investigation of all allegations concerning mismanagement, CHS must act quickly to prevent these pervasive allegations from seriously damaging its charitable mission and functioning. The AGO calls upon the CHS Board to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the present management transition to engage in a comprehensive review of the management and employment concerns that have been raised, and to take any and all necessary action to remedy any areas of concern that impede fulfillment of its mission, including, but not limited to, reviewing/revising written policies, consulting with outside experts as necessary, and implementing any personnel changes that may be necessary,” he wrote.

“Lack of leadership is causing the Connecticut Humane Society to fail its core charitable purpose — providing care and stopping cruelty to animals,” Blumenthal said. “The Connecticut Humane Society now has a historic opportunity and obligation to revive and reenergize its leadership. Very simply, it must spend more on animal care, stop apparent conflicts of interest and respect views and rights of workers and volunteers.

“The Connecticut Humane Society cannot protect its animals without protecting its funds and resources. Even as our investigation continues, we urge the CHS Board to seize this opportunity — the resignation of its president and Board chairman — to reform its practices and renew its commitment to fulfill its critical charitable mission.

“The Connecticut Humane Society’s mission to protect animals requires sound financial management, a cohesive work environment and protections against conflicts of interest — real or perceived. We are recommending reforms vital to preserving public trust in this important charity.”

According to a report on the Courant’s Internet site, the CHS released a statement today claiming that the board was already doing many of the things Blumenthal is recommending:

“The Board of the Connecticut Humane Society has been actively investigating the management and inner-workings of the organization for three months, and while we appreciate the Attorney General’s findings, many of the suggestions that he has recommended for our organization are well underway,” the statement said. “We also look forward to the opportunity to answer the additional allegations the Attorney General is now looking into.”

Summary
This Interim Report of the Office of the Attorney General (“AGO”) provides a detailed summary of the current findings and conclusions concerning the AGO’s on-going investigation into the Connecticut Humane Society (“CHS”). The AGO’s jurisdiction to investigate this matter derives from Conn. Gen. Stat. § 3-125, which provides that the Attorney General “shall represent the public interest in the protection of any gifts, legacies or devises intended for public or charitable purposes.”

The investigation has focused primarily on CHS’s alleged misuse of charitable funds raised from its donor base, but touches on several other issues that could possibly affect CHS’s ability to accomplish its charitable purpose.
Although the AGO’s investigation continues, particularly with respect to the handling of charitable funds for certain purposes and allegations of improper treatment of animals, it is appropriate at this time to issue an interim report on those allegations for which the AGO’s analysis is complete.

This Interim Report is intended to apprise the CHS Board of Directors of allegations and findings so that it may conduct a timely and thorough internal review of policies and procedures and institute necessary changes. In light of recent management changes, including particularly the resignation of President and Board Chair Richard Johnston, the CHS Board should be apprised of the AGO’s findings as it considers its future direction.

In addition, the report will provide the public and potential donors with the results of the AGO’s initial inquiry, and facilitate review by other appropriate authorities of allegations regarding CHS interference with the employees’ attempt to unionize that are beyond the jurisdiction of the AGO.
Currently, the AGO can make the following relevant findings:
1. CHS has entered into financial transactions with businesses in which members of the CHS Board have a financial interest (“Related Party Transactions”). For the years 2005, 2006, and 2007, Related Party Transactions made up between 3.3% and 5.2% of CHS’s budget expenses, which is between $175,000 and $258,000 of Related Party Transactions per year.
When Related Party Transactions were included in the minutes of the CHS Board, those minutes note the related party’s recusal from voting or the related party’s absence from the meeting.
A letter from the accounting firm of BlumShapiro stated that for the Related Party Transactions “the amount charged is reasonable for the type of services or goods provided and was less than or equal to fair market value for such services from an unrelated party.”
Nevertheless, the frequency and amount of Related Party Transactions threatens the integrity and reputation of the CHS and underscores the need to strengthen conflict of interest protocols.

2. The CHS Board has restricted an unnecessary and excessive amount of its assets to the detriment of its essential purposes. CHS has designated more than $46 million of its unrestricted fund balance of $52 million as belonging to a board-designated quasi-endowment fund (the “Quasi-Endowment Fund”).
The CHS Board adopted a policy to add legacy, estate, and other non-recurring gifts and/or income to the Quasi-Endowment Fund, as long as there are no restrictions on the gifts.
The CHS Board adopted a policy pursuant to which it releases 5.5% of the three-year average market value of the Quasi-Endowment Fund, based on quarterly valuations, to be used yearly by CHS for its general purposes.
CHS’s spending restriction, which now applies to fully 88% of CHS’s total unrestricted net assets and about 67% of CHS’s total net assets, appears to be excessive and threatens to deprive it of resources to adequately conduct its core animal care and protection functions.
3. Numerous and credible reports of mismanagement threaten CHS’s charitable mission. The AGO has received numerous and, in some instances, credible complaints describing a pervasively dysfunctional culture and serious acts of managerial misconduct. Many of these reports involve Richard Johnston, who until recently served as both the President of CHS and as the Chairman of its Board of Directors. This arrangement unnecessarily concentrated both
authority and control of CHS in one person and inappropriately wedded the organization to the reputation, priorities, and conduct of a single individual. CHS should give strong consideration as it appoints new leadership to restructuring its management to disperse organizational authority and control.
Many of the reports concerning dysfunctional management at CHS involve direct and tangible effects on the welfare of animals under CHS care. While the AGO’s investigation of these allegations continues, CHS should take the opportunity provided by this transition in management to thoroughly review its practices to prevent misconduct and the perception of misconduct from impeding its primary charitable function of caring for animals.
The AGO has also received written allegations that CHS management has unfairly fired and placed on probation individuals who have participated in unionization.

These allegations will be referred to the NLRB.
4. The AGO has not substantiated allegations of misconduct in connection with the use or sale of CHS real property. The AGO found no evidence that the President of CHS used CHS-owned property in Florida without reimbursing CHS for his use or that CHS even owned any property in Florida.
Nor is there any evidence that anyone connected with CHS received any compensation in connection with the sale of CHS’s Stamford property.
The AGO makes the following recommendations and has taken the following action:
1. The AGO calls upon the CHS Board to adopt a more robust conflict of interest policy with respect to related party transactions.
2. The AGO calls upon the CHS Board to release from restriction sufficient funds to address the animal welfare needs of animals under its care.
3. The AGO calls upon the CHS Board to immediately review and address all allegations and issues of management actions and composition which adversely affect the mission of CHS.
4. The AGO is referring to the National Labor Relations Board all allegations of interference with the attempt of CHS employees to unionize.
The AGO’s investigation will continue with respect to other concerns involving the alleged misuse of charitable funds, mistreatment of animals and alleged misrepresentations in advertising.
Background
The AGO initially received a complaint regarding several financial irregularities within the CHS. There were four distinct questions raised by this complaint:
1. Were there illegal financial transactions that occurred between CHS and CHS board members or relatives of board members? This question requires an analysis of how the CHS Board approved the transactions in question.
2. Is the Quasi-Endowment Fund being under-utilized given CHS’s financial needs at this time?
3. Does CHS own real property in Florida, which the President and Chair of the Board
used personally without reimbursing CHS?
4. Did any officer, director, or key employee of CHS act as a broker or real estate agent and receive compensation for their services in connection with the sale of CHS’s Stamford property?

On February 10, 2009, after having received the initial complaint, the AGO sent an informational request letter to CHS.1 This letter requested financial information and documents concerning the four questions raised in the initial complaint. On April 1, 2009, the AGO received written responses to the above four issues and over 1,000 pages of documents from CHS.
While reviewing these materials, it became clear that additional financial information was necessary to complete the AGO’s inquiry into the issues raised by the initial complaint.
Accordingly, the AGO issued a second request letter on July 31, 2009.2 This letter sought information specifically related to additions to and transfers from the Quasi-Endowment Fund.
CHS responded to this second request on September 25, 2009. During the AGO’s continued review of CHS’s written responses and documentary
materials, the AGO received numerous additional complaints about former President and Chairman Richard Johnston regarding financial improprieties and managerial dysfunction.
Specifically, the allegations include the misuse of charitable funds, management’s preference for cost savings over animal welfare, abusive and inappropriate management practices and policies, and retaliatory management practices against employees who voice concerns regarding the welfare of animals at CHS and who are involved with union activities.
Additionally, the AGO received an allegation that Johnston used CHS charitable funds in support of his unsuccessful campaign for State Senator for the 20th senatorial district in the early 1990’s. The allegations include Johnston’s use of staff to prepare campaign mailings and his use of CHS charitable funds to pay for the postage for these mailings.
In response to this wave of additional complaints regarding CHS and the new, specific allegations regarding Johnston, the AGO issued a third informational request letter to CHS on January 28, 2010.3 This letter targeted the above additional issues, including several others that had come to the AGO’s attention; more specifically, it targeted (1) Johnston’s alleged personal use of CHS’s charitable funds; (2) CHS’s advertising regarding its treatment of animals and its
efficient use of charitable donations; and (3) CHS’s expanded charitable purpose of protecting open space.

The AGO received a response from the CHS to this request letter on March 3, 2010. The AGO continues to examine CHS’s financial records for the misuse of charitable funds, including the alleged use of CHS’s charitable funds for Johnston’s political campaign, and to review all advertisements and statements of charitable purpose for any possible misrepresentations to the donating public. In addition, to the extent it is appropriate, the AGO may refer the allegations regarding Johnston’s use of CHS assets for his political campaign to the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

As appropriate and necessary, the AGO will supplement this report after further investigation is completed.


Findings

Conflict of Interest Transactions
It is undisputed by CHS that it has entered into financial transactions with businesses in which members of the CHS Board have a financial interest, including, for example:
1. investment services, including annual administrative fees for 401(k) and deferred compensation plans and trustee services;
2. printing, including animal placement agreement forms, fundraising letters, business cards, etc.; and
3. veterinary services, including spaying and neutering of rabbits, cats, and dogs.
For the years 2005, 2006, and 2007, Related Party Transactions made up between 3.3% and 5.2% of CHS’s budget expenses, which amounts to between $175,000 and $258,000 of Related Party Transactions per year.
CHS defends its Related Party Transactions in two primary fashions. First, it states that when the CHS Board voted on each of the transactions, there was full disclosure to the voting members of the CHS Board that it was a Related Party Transaction, and the related party either abstained from the vote or was not in attendance at that CHS Board meeting.

Our review of CHS Board minutes provided to the AGO confirmed that when Related Party Transactions were included in the minutes, those minutes note the related party’s recusal from voting or the related party’s absence from the meeting.
Second, CHS states that the Related Party Transactions are at or below fair market value.
In support of this claim, CHS provided the AGO a letter from the accounting firm of BlumShapiro that stated that for the Related Party Transactions “the amount charged is reasonable for the type of services or goods provided and was less than or equal to fair market value for such services from an unrelated party.”4 CHS provided no documents, however, to show that any bids for similar goods or services were obtained from unrelated vendors for Related Party Transactions.
The AGO is concerned with the impression CHS’s Related Party Transactions make on the donating public.

The Related Party Transactions have been an on-going and regular practice for many years at CHS. CHS, due to its prominent stature and good reputation in Connecticut, should hold itself to high ethical standards and create a policy and record that cannot be questioned.

CHS’s conflict of interest policy can and should be substantially more robust. At this time the policy simply requires the CHS Board’s prior knowledge of the Related Party Transaction. Given that CHS has a significant amount of Related Party Transactions, the AGO believes that its policy should mandate recusal from the vote by the related party and require at least two competing bids for each potential contract with a related party so as to substantiate at the time of the Related Party Transaction that it is at or below the cost of the same goods or services from an unrelated vendor.
CHS Board-Designated Endowment Fund
CHS has created a fund that it identifies as a board-designated quasi-endowment fund, previously identified as the Quasi-Endowment Fund. Generally, the Quasi-Endowment Fund is comprised of unrestricted funds6 designated by the CHS Board as belonging to the fund.
Specifically, the CHS Board has designated more than $46 million of its unrestricted fund balance of $52 million as belonging to the Quasi-Endowment Fund. The CHS Board has itself restricted the use of the principal of the Quasi-Endowment Fund to those expenses approved by the Board.

The Quasi-Endowment Fund is, however, still a part of CHS’s unrestricted funds because the CHS Board, not the donor, has restricted the use of the funds.
The CHS Board has adopted a policy which determines which funds are added to the Quasi-Endowment Fund. Its current policy is to add legacy, estate, and other non-recurring gifts and/or income to the Quasi-Endowment Fund, as long as there are no restrictions placed on the gifts by the donor.

For example, in 2007, $415,678 of legacy gifts, $525,660 from the proceeds of the sale of CHS’s Bethany property, and $213,828 received from a demutualization were all added to the Quasi-Endowment Fund. Additionally, in 2007, $2,943,616 in investment income and realized gains were added to the Quasi-Endowment Fund, as well as $55,837 in unrealized gains.

In total, for 2007, approximately $4,000,000 was added to the Quasi-Endowment Fund by the CHS Board.8 All of these amounts were unrestricted funds coming into CHS that, pursuant to CHS Board policy, became “restricted” so that none of these funds or the income generated by them would be spent unless the funds were later released by the CHS Board.
Apparently, CHS receives relatively few permanently restricted donations. Its permanently restricted fund was valued at seventeen million dollars ($17,000,000) at the end of 2007. Approximately fifteen million dollars ($15,000,000) of this restricted fund is made up of investments held by others on behalf of CHS. Only two million dollars ($2,000,000) in permanently restricted funds are actually held by CHS.

Similarly, the CHS Board adopted a policy that determines the amount of funds that will be released from the Quasi-Endowment Fund each year for use by CHS. Currently, the CHS Board releases 5.5% of the three year average market value of the Quasi-Endowment Fund, based on quarterly valuations, to be used by CHS for its general purposes. For example, in 2007, the average market value of the Quasi-Endowment Fund over the three previous years was $40,728,914. The CHS Board elected to release 5.5% of the Quasi-Endowment Fund for use by CHS, or $2,240,090.

Depending on the actual return of the Quasi-Endowment Fund, both earnings and principal may be released in any one year. As a result of CHS’s Quasi-Endowment Fund policies, the Quasi-Endowment Fund has grown substantially and now makes up about 88% of CHS’s total unrestricted net assets and about 67% of CHS’s total net assets.
The CHS states that its Quasi-Endowment Fund policies are intended to generate a consistent income stream that will not vacillate as a result of the unpredictable nature of charitable giving. Although the AGO recognizes the need for fiscal prudence and predictability in the face of uncertain financial times, CHS’s policies regarding its Quasi-Endowment Fund appear to unnecessarily restrict the resources available for core functions.

When the specific needs addressed by a charitable concern are not being met–for example, when staffing or other resources may be insufficient to meet core charitable purposes–a charity should consider releasing additional available funds. The AGO has received credible allegations concerning inadequate care provided to CHS animals. For example, there are complaints that pregnant dogs receive insufficient care, sometimes leading to loss of life of mothers and puppies, and that cats with upper respiratory infections and dogs with heartworm, both treatable diseases, are euthanized to avoid the cost of extended stays and additional treatment.

The AGO has also received complaints that there is insufficient staff to properly walk dogs and clean cages.
Given these allegations concerning animal welfare at CHS, the AGO is deeply concerned that the CHS Board has maintained an overly strict spending policy limit. It would be well within applicable legal standards of care for the CHS Board to relax this strict percentage spending policy. The AGO would deem it consistent with fiduciary obligations and financial prudence to do so.
Dysfunctional Management and Labor Relations Complaints
Richard Johnston served until his recent resignation as both the President of CHS and the Chairman of its Board of Directors. The AGO has grave concerns about a charity allowing one person to have both managerial and oversight authority. Although it is common for presidents and executive directors of charities to serve on the board ex-officio, they are rarely allowed to vote, and certainly are not given the powerful position of Chair of the Board. Combining the
Chairman’s oversight responsibilities with the President’s day-to-day management of the organization creates serious potential for conflicts in the fiduciary and management roles of both positions.

The lack of true oversight created by such a situation is an open invitation for both a stagnancy of charitable energy and an inability for the Board of Directors to appropriately fulfill their fiduciary obligations.

One of the primary subjects of complaints is that dysfunctional management at CHS is having a tangible, adverse effect on the welfare of animals in CHS’s care. Specifically, the allegations concern the following:
• CHS’s practices of preferring cost savings to animal welfare;
• aggressive euthanasia policies;
• aggressive use of bleach in animal occupied areas;
• special treatment for senior management for pet adoptions; and
• managerial disregard for leash rules at the shelter.
In addition, the AGO has received numerous allegations of management hostility towards employees who voice concerns about the care and placement provided to the animals in CHS’s care, including the verbal reprimand of an employee who objected to the placement of a potentially dangerous dog in close confines with visitors and the placement of a “hold” on a dog, consistent with CHS official policy, that was perfectly matched for an adoptee family.

In addition, it is alleged that a volunteer was fired for his failure to abide by the unwritten CHS policy to “hold” an imminently adoptable Labrador puppy aside for management’s personal use.
As noted above, the AGO has also received written allegations that CHS management has unfairly fired and placed on probation individuals who have participated in union activities by attempting to join the Machinists’ Union (IAMAW). These allegations implicate the protections of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) 29 U.S.C. 151 et seq., administered by the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”).

Under the NLRA, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate or retaliate against employees for unionization efforts or for an employer to otherwise interfere with attempts to unionize. 29 U.S.C. Sec. 158(a)(3). The AGO is referring
allegations of unfair labor practices to the National Labor Relations Board for its attention and investigation.
The AGO’s investigation remains on-going with respect to these and other issues.

It is apparent, however, that these complaints and the potential for a public perception of pervasive management dysfunction within CHS threaten to jeopardize its fundraising efforts and the accomplishment of its important charitable purposes.

As set forth in its mission statement:
The purpose of the Society is to promote humanity and kindness, and to prevent cruelty to man and animals, by information, statistics, appropriate literature, and by all lawful means which they may deem wise and best, and by assisting in prosecution of crimes of a cruel and inhumane nature; and generally to encourage justice and humanity and to discourage injustice and inhumanity.

If true, the alleged management misconduct at CHS would violate the letter and spirit of its own mission statement and could expose CHS to litigation and/or potential liability, detracting from its reputation and fundraising
ability and requiring significant expenditures on legal expenses.

Moreover, conduct like that alleged would significantly undermine an environment where employees and volunteers focus on the welfare of the animals in their care and on matching those animals to appropriate adoptee families, threatening the loss of valuable employees and volunteers dedicated to the welfare of animals.
In short, while the AGO has yet to complete its investigation of all allegations concerning mismanagement, CHS must act quickly to prevent these pervasive allegations from seriously damaging its charitable mission and functioning. The AGO calls upon the CHS Board to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the present management transition to engage in a comprehensive review of the management and employment concerns that have been raised, and to take any and all necessary action to remedy any areas of concern that impede fulfillment of its mission, including, but not limited to, reviewing/revising written policies, consulting with outside experts as necessary, and implementing any personnel changes that may be necessary.
The Property in Florida and the Compensation for the Sale of Stamford Property
Our investigation revealed no evidence that the President of CHS used CHS-owned property in Florida without reimbursing CHS for his use or that CHS even owned any property in Florida. The documents CHS provided to the AGO relating to the sale of the Stamford property showed that no one connected with CHS received any compensation in connection with the sale.
Conclusion
The AGO calls upon the CHS Board to:
1. Draft a robust conflict of interest policy with respect to related party transactions;
2. Release sufficient funds from the Quasi-Endowment Fund to address the animal welfare needs of those animals brought to CHS; and
3. Review and address relevant practices and policies in light of allegations of mismanagement that, if unaddressed, could adversely affect the mission of CHS.
Based on its review of the information provided to the AGO thus far, the AGO will refer to the NLRB all allegations of interference with the attempt of CHS employees to unionize.

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29 Responses to Blumenthal Blasts Conn Humane Society Board Practices, Says Hurt Animals And Staff

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  2. Mer on March 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Fantastic!

    I hope the Board really really internalizes this report. It’s not just overly invested employees “exaggerating” and “fabricating” claims (I’m still waiting for an apology on that one, Mr. White). This is the AG’s office, a neutral third party, warning that CHS’ behavior is out of line and possibly litigious.

    Excellent!

  3. Greyhound lover on March 30, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Finally! Justice is served; the Public Relations Director, CFO, HR Administrator, and Shelter managers need to be removed from their positions. They aided, and abetted in this corruption. And, in most cases were the causes of these crimes. Shame shame…The entire BOD should be replaced to prevent this from happening again…these people let Richard do this for 20 years.
    How can they sleep at night?!? Thank you AG, George, and the Coalition for Change.

    • Concerned Citizen on March 30, 2010 at 4:04 pm

      Absolutely agreed. BOD needs to go, including Chris White, like I said he was defending these scumbags to the very end. Appears his hand has been caught in the cookie jar. HR Director, Shelter Mgrs., PR Director and CFO all need to be shown the door by the end of this week. Time for justice and reason to prevail and all of RJ’s cronies to join him in the unemployment line…

  4. uberVU - social comments on March 30, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by ctwatchdog: Blumenthal Blasts Conn Humane Society Board Practices, Says Hurt Animals And Staff http://bit.ly/dwMvzx via @AddToAny…

  5. happy to work there on March 30, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Animals who test positive for heartworm or have upper respiratory infections are treated and cared for at CHS, because this is a medical issue and CHS has a medical staff who will fight Richard and his cronies tooth and nail.

    That said, everything else in this report makes me ecstatic! Nothing is more hurtful than to be told to your face that your claims of maltreatment of animals and employees are fabrications and lies, and that you, personally, should be ashamed. Looks like the shoe is on the other foot now! The board has to admit that IT is the liar, covering up for Richard’s abusive regime, and continuing to keep his cruelest puppets in high-ranking positions of power.

    Get rid of the entire board, all of the managers,and the head of maternity. Maybe it will be difficult for the employees who are left to have to pick up the slack, but with some long-deserved promotions of staff to management, they can begin to hire new employees to help make CHS the place it should be!

    • Now a former volunteer on March 30, 2010 at 9:17 pm

      Yeah I have to agree, I typically see the sick animals getting treatment. Of course as a former Volunteer, I didn’t see behind the scenes….I do however know that a few years ago, the medical staff would come in over night on their OWN TIME and spend the night with a pregnant animal but Johnston decided that was no longer “tolerated”. He didn’t TRUST anyone. Because they have to punch into the security system, he would know if they did come in at off times. I know of one situtation where a pregnant dog gave birth overnight and ate her pups….she just didn’t have the good mother instinct…if someone were to be there under these circumstances, they would have lived. When I say spend the night, i don’t mean in a fancy bed…I mean curled up maybe with a sleeping bag if that on the floor with the animal….the medical staff at CHS is top notch and they should be commended for their stellar contribution to CHS.

    • OMD on March 30, 2010 at 9:47 pm

      Medical has no problems what so ever. They give up many countless hours to take care of the animals. Bring them home and nurse the back to health. Uncoditional love… They seldom have few problems with behavior. The work well as team!

    • karen on March 30, 2010 at 11:37 pm

      I was glad to see the AG’s preliminary report offered support for staff accounts of abuses. It appears many dedicated and talented employees and volunteers have been treated poorly. 🙁

      I adopted most recently in October 2009, and can vouch for the front line staff’s dedication to helping pets get into good homes. My dog has a chronic medical condition and both the adoption counselor and medical staff went above and beyond to ensure I understood how to care for him. I am grateful for the care (medical & TLC) they provided him during the month he was there.

    • yet another former worker on March 31, 2010 at 1:33 pm

      What we seem to forget is that Chs is made up of three shelters. While I have nothing but repsect and faith in the medical team in Newington The same can not be said of Wesport and even more so of Waterford.

  6. Jan Kozlowski on March 30, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    The fact that the AG felt strongly enough about what was going on at CHS to issue an interim report speaks volumes. To me it says that Richard Blumenthal cares more about the animals, employees, volunteers and reputation of the CT Humane Society than either management or the Board of Directors.

    The AG seems to understand that the only way that this charity will continue to be viable is if responsibility is taken for past bad acts AND wide-sweeping changes are made to the Board, management, administration, as well as animal care, volunteer and employee relations.

    My question is why Chris White, who has been a board member for 15 years, DOESN’T get that. Does he think that telling the Hartford Courant last week that “many of the allegations made about the society were not true, or exaggerated”, and denying any financial malfeasance will make me start donating or volunteering again?

    I’ve said it before and I will say it until White, the rest of the Board and the current management and administrators of CHS follow their friend and business partner Richard Johnston and resign. Not a dime of my money (or my friend’s and family’s money) to CHS until I see responsibility taken, apologies made and real, permanent change actually take place.

  7. NoName on March 30, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    I am anticipating a new & improved society that will actually do what it is meant to….we must wait & see.

    • Now a former volunteer on April 3, 2010 at 9:58 pm

      We can and will accomplish this if the board DOES it’s job. The fight obviously continues until the wrong people are ousted and new people who will carry out the CHS mission are in place. Together we can get this place back on the right track instead of the derailed mess it is now.

  8. Cathy DeMarco on March 30, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    All new so-called improvements being implemented at CHS are simply due to the public exposure and pressure that the Coalition brought on. When the BOD releases a statement that many of the AG’s recommendations are already well under way, they mean that over the last 3 months they have BEGUN to look into concerns and have BEGUN to get involved. For many long, difficult years the employees were ignored, demoted, disrespected, and intimidated. For decades animals were not given the chance they deserved. It is hard for me to read the Board’s statements knowing that if it hadn’t been for the original few employees (who were ultimately fired) who had the courage to stand up for what they knew was true and right, none of these supposed improvements would be happening. CHS managers and board members lack courage, vision, and true leadership qualities. All of these attributes exist in large amounts within the workers downstairs. The AG has validated all of you my friends.

    • Mer on March 31, 2010 at 9:15 am

      Agreed. Given the Board’s continued propensity for spin doctoring and half truths I think they should be pushed to bring in an industry expert to advise and oversee the future transitions at CHS.

      And, the Board should publish the experts recommendations and their plans to the staff at all the shelters.

  9. ex employee on March 30, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    As an ex employee I have often wondered how RJ and his supporters can sleep at night knowing how morally filthy they are.

    I used to work at the Bethany shelter that recently shut down due to lack of funds…. or at least that is what we were told. The working conditions at the Newington shelter are 1000x better than what we put up with having almost no heat most of the time and no veterinarian on staff. When a veterinarian was sent to us from head quarters, we would be instructed to euthanize an entire room full of cats and kittens, and our jobs were threatened if we refused. The experience was traumatic enough that I will never work with animals ever again.

    I do not know one employee that worked at the Bethany shelter that did not get completely screwed over by this man. The CT humane society is not a bad organization it’s just being run by disgusting people, but since my experience I do not support CHS.

  10. InsideJob on March 31, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I don’t think that the whole board needs to go, but just about everyone besides Gretchen Dale and Bob Baseler, who are actual volunteers that work with the animals, needs to go.

    It’s interesting that Chris White states that the whole board is comprised of volunteers. In the sense that they don’t get paid directly for serving on the board, they are, I guess, volunteers, although most of them receive some sort of business from CHS as a result of being on the board.

    But to call the board members “volunteers” is misleading and unfair. The volunteer work that Bob and Gretchen do, walking dogs, etc. is what is really meant by “volunteer,” and Chris White knows that.

    If you cannot commit to coming in and helping out with the animals, you shouldn’t be on the board, plain and simple. Don’t want to get your hands dirty? Go be on a board somewhere else.

    • It's about time on April 4, 2010 at 5:08 pm

      As a volunteer that witnessed many atrocities at the Westport facility and did nothing then nor when she became a Board member, Gretchen deserves the boot too. If you know what’s going on and do nothing to improve the situation you are as guilty as RJ.

  11. Hmmmm.... on March 31, 2010 at 10:07 am

    CHS lawyers should be very afraid of being sued for malpractice. CHS spends tons of money on Shipmen and Goodwin to make sure that what CHS is doing is above board. Based on the AG’s investigation, it looks like the lawyers have not been doing their job….and CHS should be able to recoup some of the money it has spent on legal fees (and spend it on animals!), because it was obviously not money well spent.

    • ex employee on March 31, 2010 at 12:14 pm

      Agreed. I have often thought about taking legal action against CHS for numerous reasons, but have not because I’m not sure that I can mentally handle re-living my experience in court. And that is from my personal experience, never mind all the people that gave large donations just to find out that it was not going to HELP animals….. once again, I do not know how these people sleep at night.

  12. Michelle Hansen on March 31, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Thank you Mr. Blumenthal for having a heart.

  13. Singing in the rain :-) on March 31, 2010 at 10:17 am

    To those of you who said it would never happen ~ We’re happy to have proven you wrong. I feel bad that you chose to abandon your fellow co-workers, who only had the animal’s best interest in mind, to follow the lead of an egotistical tyrant. Especially knowing it was wrong. Why? Job security you thought. Hmmm, do you feel secure now? Guess the shoe is on the other foot now. How does it feel knowing your every moved is being watched? Do you truly understand what you put your co-workers through? Day in and day out you ruthlessly harassed your co-workers until they were physically sick. Do you feel good about that? A good manager would never allow this type of treatment in any organization. One working at the HUMANE Society nevertheless….should be especially compassionate. I think you owe your current as well as ex-employees a heartfelt apology. Then you should step aside, step down from your ivory throne before it tumbles down on its own. I wish you well, but first let me offer you a box to put your belongings in and please let me come back to walk YOU out the door. Buhbye!

    • Singing in the rain :-) on March 31, 2010 at 10:26 am

      Thank you Mr. Blumenthal, George Gombossy, Uncle Everett, & the Coalition for Change. This could never have gone as far as it did without your help & support. The dark clouds are lifting making way for sunnier days!!! 🙂 Life is good!

    • thedogguy on March 31, 2010 at 2:30 pm

      I worked for RJ for almost a year and can tell you that he surrounded himself with only people that did not question him. The day that I did, was the beginning of the end for me. From that day forward, I was under his microscope. He was the most insecure man that I’ve ever met. He ruled the CHS through fear and intimidation. When he realized that I niether feared or was intimidated by him, it was time for me to go. The only thing that kept me going was the animals in my care. That seemed to mean little to him. His only concern was for increasing numbers and donations. I don’t wish anything bad upon anyone, but he reaped what he sewed. Kharma doesn’t forget.

      • formeree on March 31, 2010 at 7:24 pm

        I could not have said it any better. I too worked for RJ and EVERYTHING you say is true. His micro-managing produced an intolerable and inhumane work environment for his employees. The only animals that mattered were his own. I’m glad he’s out.

  14. Not suprised on March 31, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    I am not suprised at all by this. I have excellent vet references, and went to CT Humane to see a dog I had specifically called about. When I got there I was shown the dog, and we seemed to bond and spent a lot of time together. I said I would like to adopt him.

    Then, I was told by the worker that a woman had come in that morning and was bringing her kiddos back in the afternoon to possibly see the dog, and if the kiddos wanted the dog, he was theirs. There appeared to be a behind the scense hold on the dog. But I was told that if the kiddos said no, then the dog would be mine, or if the kids did not like the dog and he was returned at a later date, they would call me. I said no to that.

    This was after I was told how shy this dog was, and a bit scared of kids. I told the worker that this was not a kids dog, and he told me they made the rules there.

    Not suprised at all. I am sure there are good and kind workers there, but the one I encountered was not one of them, or he was answering to a higher authority to save his job. A humane society lets kids choose a dog? C’mon.

  15. Catwoman on April 2, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Speaking of money, I’d love to see how much was (and is still being) spent on lawyers to fight the employees’ efforts to unionize. If they would only spend that kind of money on hiring staff instead they might actually be able to provide proper care for the animals.

  16. Lindsay on April 7, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Obviously the board is failing to take ANY of this seriously since they sent out a mini “release” to volunteers, donors and employees about all the wonderful things they have done and it seems through there own “investigations” they have found all of our claims to be entirely false. Even going so far as to discount the AG by stating:

    “The committee discussed in detail the accusations of conflict of interest against Board members who have done business with the Society. An independent auditing firm was hired to investigate and their findings mirrored what we already knew to be true. In all cases the prices charged by Board members were at or below (and in many cases dramatically below) fair market value. Several Board members remarked that they were genuinely proud that they were able to save the Society so many donated dollars by providing goods and services at or below cost.”

    They shoud as board members offer serveice at almost NO cost. But I’m pretty sure there’s regulations for non-profits that requires them to put any work out to bid and to a minimum of 3 contractors and are then required to take either the lowest bidder, OR, if the lowest is a crap bid or of poor quality work, they can take the next best one.

    Then there’s this lovely gem:
    “The committee found no evidence whatsoever that there is or was any financial misconduct at the Society. The committee and the Society’s independent auditors all found no wrongdoing. ” WHO ARE THESE AUDITORS????? They keep talking about independent auditors, well what closet were they dragged from that every single signed and sworn statement (mine included) is being deemed wrong and they all stand out as heros…..

  17. Greyhound lover on April 20, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    So the corruption and crimes against animals still continue at the CHS. Insiders report management is back to their old ways…being bullies and distorting the true mission of the society. What people don’t realize is that Dick Johnston may be gone, but the place is still run by his toadies. These unqualified managers, BOD members-esp the rotten chairman, and executives are the ones calling the shots. Don’t forget Dick hired these people because they would do whatever he said without question, they have no morals or true understanding or concern of what animal care really means. Not to mention they aided and abetted Dick in illegal practices! What is going on here? This is still allowed to happen? Not to mention the new chairmen of the BOD lies to the public on a constant basis.
    The behaviorist, if you can even call her that, has a breed bias. She openly stated that all labs are stupid dogs, plain and simple. She does not like herding breeds at all. She loves pitbulls…that’s about it. Currently she spends ALL her time with a pitbull named Bam Bam that has a bite history. He can’t even be placed through the society due to policy regarding bite history. While there are great dogs like Brady, who are not pitbulls, rotting away in the shelter. Brady has dog aggression…and they want to place him through a rescue. Can you believe that the richest animal organization in the state is looking for some tiny rescue to absorb the financial and behavioral implications this “dog aggressive” canine may incurr. They are unwilling to work with the dog, pay for it’s care, and place it for adoption themselves. The behaviorist does not have time for Brady because…A) he is not a pittbull B) She spends her day working with Bam Bam, a dog with a bite history. Dogs who have bite histories are usually euthanized at CHS. I am not wishing harm on pitbulls, but what goes for pitbulls should then be the standards for all dogs. And finally C) she is too busy trainging dogs to ride skateboards in the hall and watching YouTube than to work with the wonderful begaviorally challenged dogs that aren’t pitbulls at the shelter…Oh and we can’t forget euthanizing dogs after hours so as not to alert the staff…
    People please, do you see what’s going on here? Demand answers, help the coalition expose these crimes, and for pete’s sake don’t listen to Chris White’s lies.





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