Connecticut Humane Society: New Britain Woman Is Driving Force Behind Reform Effort

January 23, 2010
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While three fired Connecticut Humane Society workers were in the public spotlight last week describing poor working conditions and raising questions about whether animals there were being unnecessarily euthanized, the person most responsible for this unprecedented attack was quietly working at her job as a teaching assistant in New Britain.

A New Britain native, Cathy DeMarco is the last person that the management at the 129-year-old institution would have suspected as the person who organized the administrative and staff employees to take on Richard Johnston, a former state senator and lawyer who for the past 20 years has run the agency like it was his personal business, and his management team.

DeMarco only worked for a few months at the Newington-based shelter and, unlike most people who leave CHS, she says she left on good terms, quitting last fall when her temporary full-time work ended and only a part-time job was available.

Cathy DeMarco

She was a “humane educator,” a job that entailed teaching people about animal care. She has a bachelor of science degree in animal science and pathology from the University of Connecticut and has served as an animal control officer.

DeMarco says she was horrified at how others were treated by the managers at an agency that was founded to foster “humanity” for people and animals. She said several of the managers did not appear to have proper qualifications and some did little work.

In an interview last week, DeMarco said staff that worked downstairs (with the animals) were referred to in derogatory terms publicly by managers and were frequently humiliated in front of others.

“They were referred to as ‘the riffraff, chuckleheads, knuckleheads, dill-holes,'” DeMarco said. “One employee who mentioned that she was thinking of having her hair colored was told she would look like a ‘crack whore'” by one manager.

“The entire downstairs animal care team was frequently spoken about in very derogatory terms, most often with regards to how lazy they all were and how the district manager did not know what to do to get them to be more productive. This sentiment made its way to the upstairs administrative staff.”

DeMarco said that when she had her exit interview, she was repeatedly asked by a manager if she observed anything in the “downstairs” that she might have been concerned about.

“When I finally said that I was concerned because the lack of downstairs staff created a very intense and challenging work environment, (the manager) just rolled her eyes and said ‘they complain about everything. … They are lucky to have jobs.'”

But unbeknown to that the manager and to Johnston, DeMarco had already taken steps to give more voice to the workers in the “downstairs.”

DeMarco said that unlike others who worked there, her livelihood did not depend on the agency and she is not afraid to stand up against authority.

She started meeting with workers outside the facility, at first on a one-on-one basis, telling them that they did not have to accept that kind of treatment. She had to convince them that threats of libel and retaliation from Johnston had little meaning if they banded together.

Many workers told her they were afraid of going public because the institution’s employee handbook – which I have obtained – specifically forbids them from revealing “confidential Society information.” I wonder what “confidential” information Johnston is worried about having in the public’s hands.

Soon, she had enough workers interested in taking some kind of action that they began meeting in groups secretly at a building that DeMarco owns in Berlin.

When enough workers said they were interested in taking on Johnston and the management, DeMarco said, she started calling unions to see if any would help them. The Machinists Union, which represents workers at United Technologies divisions, agreed to help.

In early December, the workers voted 18-15 to organize a union. Johnston challenged the vote and fired three of the union supporters. The union and Johnston are now battling about whether the firings were legal and whether the union should be certified. She also contacted me, asking me to investigate conditions in the facility.

If was after the firings that DeMarco convinced two of the discharged workers to contact me and to provide me with written statements about how Johnston bullied workers, used administrators to care for his daughter during working hours, and used charity funds to pay for personal expenses, including his real estate and attorney annual fees. Johnston has declined to respond to any of the allegations directly. Through a spokeswoman he denied all allegations of wrongdoing, blamed all the accusations on union activities and threatened to sue for libel.

I provided the statements from Maureen Lord, who worked for four years as Johnston’s assistant, and Bridget Karchere, who was a financial assistant, to state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who as the result ordered an investigation into the society’s finances. That investigation is continuing.

To provide the group with more support, DeMarco helped establish the “Coalition for Change,” which now claims to have more than 80 members, including present and former workers, volunteers, donors and animal lovers.

It was the coalition – with the help of former CHS public relations director Cheryl Rice – that conducted Wednesday’s press conference in East Hartford that attracted reporters from newspapers and several television stations, representing the first coverage of the issues by the traditional media. Rice was fired five years ago from CHS.

Workers at CHS even got the nerve to tell me about how Johnston and managers fooled OSHA inspectors who showed up unannounced last September after a complaint was made about a worker who suffered breathing problems from using bleach without safety equipment.

According to the OSHA inspection report I received Friday as the result of an FOI request, two inspectors showed up at the Newington facility shortly before 10:50 a.m. on Sept. 11 and met with Johnston and some managers. Their inspection did not start until 11:15 a.m.

During those 25 minutes, several workers told me, managers hid unlabeled chemical bottles and placed protective gear on counters. According to one account, Johnston and another manager hid chemicals under their clothing while the inspectors were walking around the building and put them in a garage. Scared workers refused to tell the inspectors – in one-on-one meetings – about actual conditions in the facility. OSHA gave the Society a clean bill of health.

However, OSHA inspectors returned Tuesday after reading about my account of the Sept. 11 inspection and after receiving another complaint.

This time, they told workers they would not be fooled. The inspectors talked with all workers who were available and specifically asked them for details about what took place on Sept. 11. Several of the workers, this time, told the coalition that they told inspectors about safety problems.

The assistant OSHA area director, Roman Krochmalnyckyj, according to one worker I talked with, said “I don’t like being played” in response to very obviously planted safety equipment like goggles and gloves.

The media attention last week even drew a response from the CHS board of directors, which insisted that it doesn’t believe that Johnston has done anything wrong, but will look into the complaints. The board refused to respond to questions from the media, and Johnston continued to be unavailable.

The board’s response seems a little hollow, as every board member was picked by Johnston and six of the 12 have received payments for services either they or their companies have provided. In 2007 to the tune of more than $170,000. A good chunk of the money went to the Hartford law firm of Shipman & Goodwin – $68,565 – for legal work. Shipman attorney Robert Cathcart served on the board. Shipman is now representing the society in its legal battles with the union.

While some board members are familiar with the operations of the charity – which has shelters in Newington, Westport and Waterford – others have less knowledge. For instance one longtime board member I talked with privately insisted that the union movement is not an indication of management problems because there are more than 300 full and part time employees. Wrong. More like 50. He also insisted that Cheryl Rice was never public relations director of the society. Guess that comes as a surprise to Cheryl, maybe she just dreamed it.

Rumors were flying Friday that some kind of major management change was in the works. Supposedly Johnston ordered that his name be removed from stationery that lists the board of directors. Employees who have inside information can contact me at George@connecticutwatchdog.com. Let’s see how it plays out.

The thousands of people who have donated their time and money to the society should demand an INDEPENDENT investigation of both the board and Johnston. There are just too many complaints from credible people to ignore.

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75 Responses to Connecticut Humane Society: New Britain Woman Is Driving Force Behind Reform Effort

  1. Concerened on January 23, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Kathy is an ANGEL sent from above!

  2. Alpha Dog on January 23, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    SURPRIZE! GOTCHA!

  3. Cheryl Rice on January 23, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    “Guess that comes as a surprise to Cheryl. Maybe she just dreamed it.” LOL George! If only that were true …

    Seriously though, even I am shocked that a board member (a BOARD member) could be that out-of-touch. It’s just like all the employees and former employees have been saying — the board really has no way of knowing many, many things about the organization. Information and communication, even to the board of directors, is tightly edited and controlled.

  4. Greyhound lover on January 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Great piece George! Keep em’ coming…
    And as far as Cathy is concerned, she is one of the most caring, concerned, and intelligent individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
    Congrats to Cathy, Bridget, Maureen, and all the brave CHS staff…it won’t be long until justice is served!

  5. Concerned on January 23, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    A couple of comments on the recent stories on the Humane Society:
    1) I don’t understand why these stories have received such little coverage from the mainstream media. If even some of these allegations are true, which I believe they are, every person who has donated to the HS, every animal lover and every current and former employee and volunteer should take steps to see that improvements will be made to the operation of the HS. That starts with an awareness of the problems by the general (donating) public.
    2) Along with the AG’s office, the Department of Revenue Services and the Department of Consumer Protection should be investigating the allegations concerning misrepresentations by the HS and the misuse of donation $. Maybe they need to hear from us.
    3) Why is the AG’s investigation of the HS not mentioned on his office’s website along with other matters the office is investigating? Hmmm.
    4) Employees should think long and hard about the effects a union could have on the HS. Do you think the union will allow help from volunteers? Do you think the HS will have the same amount of donations or number of donators? If there are lower donations, doesn’t that mean fewer animals that can be helped? Also, remember that every change in the terms of employment (wages, benefits, working hours, etc) will have to be Negotiated with management – that means GIVE and take. The union usually paints a rosy picture initially but the reality is often very different. Something to think about.
    5) Thank you George for bringing this story to light – and not letting go of it.

    • omd on January 24, 2010 at 12:01 am

      Concerned- I totally disagree with your 4th comment..Before deciding to Unionize the CHS Employess looked into the Union that would best represent the workers, they did their research. The reason the Machinist Union was picked was because they also represent the employee of the Redcross which is made up of paid staff as well as volunteers. The paid staff knows that they can not function with out the UNCONDITIONAL SUPPORT THAT THEIR VOLUNTEERS GIVE and VOLUNTEERS are part if the COALITION FOR A CHANGE. The reason for the Union is because the staff has no other choice! They are victims of disfair treatment,harassment, discrination and disfair treatment. When a contract is FAIRLY NEGIOTATED, the elected officers from CHS will negioate with the MANAGMENT of CHS. The entire union staff will vote on the contract that will be negioate and they will have their final say. Have you not seen in the news that the Machinist Union is tryin to keep work and CT? That the Union employees have tried to help to keep their jobs in CT. Electronic monitoring laws where established because of a Union. Unions are trying keep jobs in CT, that are makin money in CT. Where is the bad in this? Do you not see what the former employees havin beenin saying?? This may not have happened if there was a Union in place before. A UNION IS AS STRONG AS THE MEMBERS MAKE IT! A Union can make a difference.

      • Concerned too on January 24, 2010 at 3:42 am

        Thank you, thank you, thank you omd. Very well said!!!

  6. Azy on January 23, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Slowly but surely it’s all coming together!!!! Richard’s incompetence and true colors are shining. Great article George!

  7. uberVU - social comments on January 23, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by ctwatchdog: Connecticut Humane Society: New Britain Woman Is Driving Force Behind Reform Effort http://bit.ly/7wkfU1 via @AddToAny…

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  9. iBlogWestHartford on January 23, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    It appears that Mr. Johnston has a long history of union-bashing.

    Here’s what he had to say during his 1994 state senate campaign against Democratic incumbent Melodie Peters:

    “Mrs. Peters should have abstained from any and all votes dealing with the labor unions and the AFL-CIO,” Johnston said. “Mrs. Peters is supposed to represent the approximately 90,000 men, women and children of the 20th District, not just the powerful liberal labor union leaders. Her failure to abstain from those votes proves what I have said all along — Mrs. Peters is a one issue senator . . .”

    At:
    http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/courant/access/114601937.html?dids=114601937:114601937&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Oct+26%2C+1994&author=AMANDA+GILL%3B+Courant+Correspondent&pub=Hartford+Courant&desc=CHALLENGER%2C+INCUMBENT+STILL+AT+ODDS+STATE+SENATE+DISTRICT+20&pqatl=google

  10. iBlogWestHartford on January 23, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Hey –

    The latest CT Humane Society non-profit tax filing (“990”) found online (it’s 2007’s; where’s their 2008?) was prepared by the accounting firm Whittlesey & Hadley.

    I wonder what Whittlesey & Hadley (and their managing partner, the widely-esteemed Andrew G. Andrews) has to say about a non-profit at which the paid CEO is ALSO the head of the board of directors?

    Like,

    WHO can fire the CEO if that CEO is also President of the Board?

    Mr. Andrews???

  11. InTheKnow on January 23, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Thank you Cathy.. just thank you

  12. Mayor Of Dogtown on January 23, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Wow, yet another story about the Humane Society. They just keep coming, there is NO WAY this stuff can be made up. It’s too specific, it’s too real, it needs to be stepped up. At this point the AG’s office should be putting a freeze on everything that goes on behind those doors. No hirings, NO firings, no money spent…..

  13. Kypper on January 23, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Thank you, George, for bringing all this information to the public.
    As a former CHS worker and member of the Coalition I can vouch for much of what is being described in George’s many columns. I just want to make it known that some of the information posted does filter through a number of people before it reaches ctwatchdog.com. For example, in this most recent article, the rumor about Mr. J. supposedly removing his name from CHS stationery may have come from an employee who overheard Johnston instructing the staff member responsible for the order. That employee may have than relayed that info to some other staff members before it finally reached this website. The point I am trying to make is that there is still immense fear about every single thing going on at CHS , even over minor things like letterhead. The fear is legitimate as was proven in the firings of 3 excellent workers Christmas week. We strongly believe that many other employees are being targeted and may be terminated at any moment. A number of employees have recieved poor reviews even though they deserve very high ratings. It is impossible to understand the management techniques going on here. We need everyone to help and stay tuned. Thanks to all!

  14. Former Employee on January 23, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Cathy, you are not alone in your experience at the Connecticut Humane Society and I applaud you for taking action.

    I began as a volunteer for the organization and was later hired as a grant writer. While volunteering, I worked out of my home. After I was hired and was in the office every day, I knew I could not be a part of the organization. The abusive treatment of staff at the Humane Society and the antiquated style of management and administration is like no place I have ever seen. I resigned after a few months.

    My experience with the organization stayed with me…it was truly disappointing as I had the pleasure of working for a wonderful humane society in NY and know that it does not have to be this way. When I saw the articles come out about the Coalition I was relieved that someone was finally doing something.

    Thank you!

  15. Robyn on January 23, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    “Our Lives Begin To End The Day We Become Silent About The Things That Matter” – Martin Luther King ~ Thank you Cathy & the Coalition for speaking up! I know you all will succeed in this wonderful mission.

  16. Mange on January 24, 2010 at 1:16 am

    You guys are great !! Keep it up No One Deserves it better !!

    Mr.J – My Mom ALWAYS said “You never hate someone, you just dislike them a lot”
    She was right, dislike is much more rewarding than hate.
    Hopefully, you understand that.

  17. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by George Gombossy, James, Great Lakes Enviro, maureenlord, Coalition for Change and others. Coalition for Change said: Go, Cathy! RT @ctwatchdog Connecticut Humane Society: New Britain Woman Is Driving Force Behind Reform Effort http://bit.ly/7wkfU1 […]

  18. Anon on January 24, 2010 at 7:42 am

    I just wanted to say a few things about the number of employees we have at the Newington shelter. They just promoted our “team leaders” to “assistant district managers,” which means they are hiring (they already hired one) two new “team leaders” for the “adoptions” and “incoming” sides of the building. With the addition of these new management positions there will be six downstairs managers (two “team leaders,” two “assistant district managers,” our “behaviorist,” and the “district manager” overseeing nine downstairs employees. This seems to me like an awfully high manager to employee ratio, and it doesn’t even include the additional “managers” they have “upstairs.”

    • Mayor Of Dogtown on January 24, 2010 at 8:39 am

      What is the total number of animal care people at this point….Incoming has what? Four? and then there are ummmm maybe six Adoption Counselors? So it’s almost like each team leader or manager can have their own whipping post…..it’s almost a one to one ratio….checks and balances people, checks and balances….

      • Anon on January 24, 2010 at 8:54 am

        Actually adoptions has only four now, incoming technically has six I suppose, but one person is not past the 90 day probationary period, and the other used to be part of medical. I am not sure who her direct supervisor is so I did not count her either.

      • Robyn on January 24, 2010 at 9:01 am

        There are 5 incoming staff, one of which is never in work. She’s the pet of the managers. Must be a plant. Then there are 5 adoption counselors. One of the couselors was injured on the job & is out on disability. Another counselor has a hand injury (work related) and cannot lift more than 5 lbs. at this time.

        • anony mouse on January 24, 2010 at 5:48 pm

          excluding persons out on long-term disability:

          incoming (animal care): 4
          adoptions: 4
          medical: 3
          maternity: 1
          customer service: 3
          managers/supervisors/team leaders: 5 (and hiring 2 more)

    • volunteer on January 24, 2010 at 10:18 am

      Typical Union busting tecniques used by companies. My guess is they probably hired a consultant for this. More money wasted!

      • omd on January 24, 2010 at 10:30 am

        TRYING TO DIVIDE AND CONQUER!

        • InTheKnow on January 24, 2010 at 3:53 pm

          To allow them.. Yes team.. you now, would be the only ones to allow them to divide and conquer. Stand strong with your convictions. Mr Johnston “picked” his board.. of course they’ll stand by him as they too, have much to lose by his removal. Remember, this is about the animals AND you. Please remember what George told you.. no personal attacks against anyone, especially RJ. That alone can ruin this wonderful transition of power and yes, it will happen because each and every one of you ARE SPEAKING TRUTHS. The truth will prevail.

          • i'm a voly on January 25, 2010 at 3:08 pm

            i,ve been on both sides of the table for labor and am now on the management side of the table. During my years of service with the Teamsters as an organizer and Steward I’ve seen alot of dirty tactics from management, but this guy is a real beauty. I wish I was still an organizer, I’d love to take him on..If you ask me the Machinists have dropped the ball on this one. Have they been in contact with you guys inside at all? They should be right up Johnstons A#$ right now with all the threats he’s been throwing around. Loading up the place with so called team leaders and supervisors. These idiots took a long drink of the Kool-aid, Don’t they realize that once the Union gets in, they are gone. And believe me “UNITY” will prevail. STAY STRONG!!!!!!!!!!!1

  19. Focus on January 24, 2010 at 10:55 am

    There are not enough animal care staff members to adequately care for the current animals and take in new homeless pets. 2 weeks ago, a woman came in with 5 cats, ages 5 months to 2 years. She wanted to drop them off because they were her mother’s cats (mother moved into a nursing home) and she herself could not have them all in her apartment.

    I was on my way out the door when she came in (I am a volunteer). The incoming guy, Tom, told her there was no room for the cats. In actuality, most likely unbeknownst to Tom (I don’t blame him; he doesn’t run the shelter), there were 2 empty cages in the cat condo. Those cages had not been cleaned out, and cats from the back had not been moved into the condo, because all the staff were scrambling like mad with adoptions; there was simply no time to move animals up to the condo and accordingly free up space in the back for new, incoming pets.

    There was adequate physical space for these new homeless pets to be brought in, situated, and adopted out.

    5 YOUNG FRIENDLY CATS WERE TURNED AWAY NEEDLESSLY, AND DEPRIVED OF THE CHANCE TO FIND LOVING HOMES, BECAUSE CHS IS NOT ADEQUATELY STAFFED! THIS IS THE DIRECT RESULT OF JOHNSTON’S (MIS)MANAGEMENT OF CHS.

    STAY TENACIOUS EVERYONE! Don’t give up hope; things will change….Johnston is smart, but there are smarter people amongst our ranks, and more importantly, passionate and brave people who will see our objective through!

    • anony mouse on January 24, 2010 at 5:41 pm

      Thank you. As a current employee, you have no idea how precisely you have expressed our daily plight. We all want to help as many animals as possible. When I know that there are empty cages, I want to let the public know that “yes, we will help you.” But instead of helping the animals, the public, and our fellow employees, we are assigned side-jobs that are largely time-wasters, just to keep us busy. I won’t even start to enumerate the side-jobs that distract us from animal care. I will simply state that we, the staff, simply want to be ALLOWED to do what we KNOW is best for the animals in our care. Thank you, Focus, for recognizing the need we ourselves desperately hope to fill.

      • Focus on January 24, 2010 at 6:19 pm

        My pleasure! The actual animal care staff at CHS goes above and beyond in all that they do.

        Another interesting tidbit for you all: you may want to google “Wilfredo Barriosnuevo.” He was a member of the Board of Directors as of 2009. He is a veteranarian who was sanctioned in 1999 by the CT Vet Board (forgot the actual name of the board) for failure to exercise the proper standard of care in caring for a pet; the owner then brought an action against him. He was ordered to complete some continuing education….google his name for the whole story.

        Not exactly the kind of person one would want on the Board of Directors of an animal welfare charity, but then again, are any of the current Board of Directors any better?

        • Focus on January 24, 2010 at 6:28 pm

          Sorry to respond to my own post…but it just gets more comical….William A. Haines, the VP/ Vice Chair of the Board of Directors, was ALSO sanctioned by the State of Connecticut (in 1992) for improper record keeping…google him as well (William A Haines DVM) for the PDF Consent Order, which will give the details.BOTH VETS ON THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS (as of 2009) HAVE BEEN SANCTIONED BY THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT WITH RESPECT TO THEIR VET PRACTICES!

        • iBlogWestHartford on January 24, 2010 at 7:08 pm

          “Sinbad presented to Wilfredo Barriosnuevo on January 9, 1998, as a listless dog with a persistent andincreasingly severe cough. He was also having difficulty breathing and was emitting gurglingsounds from his chest. These symptoms had not responded to the antibiotic respondent hadprescribed two days before and, in fact, had gotten worse. Sinbad’s vaccination history, absenceof a temperature and lack of recent exposure to other dogs did not support respondent’s originaldiagnosis of Kennel Cough. As an eight year old Doberman Pinscher, Sinbad was particularlysusceptible to heart disease and was exhibiting several of the primary symptoms of that disease. Respondent, however, continued to diagnose Sinbad as suffering from an upper respiratoryinfection.

          “Had the Repsondent auscultated Sinbad’s chest while taking his pulse, he would havecome to a different diagnosis. Sinbad’s owner was not convinced that respondent’s diagnosiswas correct and requested that respondent perform additional tests; but respondent failed toperform an x-ray and electrocardiogram which would have quickly and definitively identified Sinbad’s true medical condition.”

          “The Board, therefore, concludes that respondent failed to conform to the standard of care for licensed veterinarians in Connecticut when, on January 9, 1998, he failed to perform a complete and thorough physical examination of Sinbad, take x-rays, and perform an electrocardiogram.”

          • Alpha Dog on January 24, 2010 at 7:20 pm

            Not sure if you knew this already but Dr. Barriosnuevo also in CHS and Fox Clinics PT vet. He comes in when he is “needed” and let me tell you he charges an outragous amount for his services. He has been there as long as Richard, I would like to see his yearly income from Richard. Also we are told as counslers to recommend both Dr.Barrios and Dr.Haines to our customers. Just another way of passing the buck.

        • Gioia on January 25, 2010 at 12:59 pm

          As already posted by Alpha Dog, Dr Barrios (that’s how he is referred to) has been on the Society’s payroll for years. In the old building, when he conducted “animal checks” on cats, he would sometimes have a kennel worker hold the cat at a distance. He would make his evaluation of the animal based on that, without even touching the animal or at least eyeballing it at close range. There were often times so many dogs and cats for him to “review”, that he just simply adopted this streamlined approach to get through the process more quickly. But he couldn’t have been that busy because he was often times spotted hanging out in the lunchroom on days he was “working” for the organization. In the new facility, he was largely confined to the Fox Memorial Clinic, so I can’t speak to how he conducted himself there.

          • Gioia on January 25, 2010 at 5:18 pm

            I’m replying to my own post because I was asked for clarification of my comments above. I was one of the workers at that time who held some of the cats evaluated by Dr Barrios, only to be told they were good to go back in their cages, without the benefit of his actually being hands on with them. I’m not, of course, a veterinarian, but my expectation would be that there’d be a more hands on approach with all of the animals.

  20. Alpha Dog on January 24, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    I’ve been with CHS for over 8 years and have had a new Manager every year.
    Enjoy your “manager” positions while you have them ladies, it is a inevitable that it will be short lived, just ask the “trainer” how she liked her reighn while it lasted.

  21. Just saying on January 24, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    If anyone would like to see part of the press conference it’s on UTUBE.COM search for connecticut humane society press conference.

  22. to omd on January 24, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    omd, Red Crosis is “not” represented by the Machinist Union but by AFSME local 4 in New Britain.

  23. Anon on January 24, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Wow, what an outpouring from employees. It’s impressive.

    As to George’s description of the board. That’s a classic insider’s board. Lacks independence.

    Not uncommon among even publicly traded companies, (unfortunately) but not good governance. Not good.

  24. A Volunteer on January 25, 2010 at 9:45 am

    It’s criminal that a single person has that much control. And, uses it for personal interest instead of promoting the CHS mission. BOD, please fix this.

    Can someone please explain the memo that states if animal care staff doesn’t wear a shirt with their name embroidered, they may not be able to work? Ok, ding them somehow if you feel the need to “punish”, but how does that serve the needs of the animals?? Seriously. It’s not as if there’s so many extra staff that it wouldn’t affect the animals’ welfare. How and why is this nonsense allowed?!

    And, for all you naysayers, I read it with my own eyes in the locker room written by the new district manager. Tsk, tsk.

    • Hypocrites on January 25, 2010 at 10:09 am

      That’s funny that a staff member needs to have their name on their shirt….considering that a new employee and soon-to-be team leader was wearing a plain white shirt the other day with no identification whatsoever. I thought she was a member of the public that had somehow got into the cat condo!

      • Mayor Of Dogtown on January 25, 2010 at 8:37 pm

        I had the same situation this past Saturday. I thought Kitty was with a customer this whole time and come to find out she’s the new team leader. Mr J must have hired her because of the way her body fits in clothes…he’s a pig that way! The place just continues to amaze me. Staff, hang in there….A Hard Rain’s gonna fall….

    • Mer on January 25, 2010 at 10:29 am

      This is because employees have complained that they are repeatedly written up based on something “a customer saw/heard.” They argued that even if someone really did witness an employee do something that there was no way to know that the person written up was the person who actually committed some egregious sin. Now with name tags they have irrefutable “proof!”

      Sewn on name tags gives “credibility” to assertions that a certain employee did something evil witnessed by a member of the public, who never really existed, never actually hunted down a manger and never actually complained about any of the employees.

      I suspect the names are sewn on and not just pinned on tags to 100% ensure that the person wearing the shirt is so named. In other words, so employees can’t swap tags to hide their identity.

      • Also a Volunteer on January 25, 2010 at 11:25 am

        Yup – sewn on

    • Mayor Of Dogtown on January 25, 2010 at 8:46 pm

      Well then maybe the new district manager is going to have to get down and dirty and clean up shit in the cages like the staff does on a daily basis if she is going to be sending folks home for such silliness. The whole upstairs management team needs a facelift. I’d love to get in there and show them how a real manager manages!!!!! How do you run an organization with way more chiefs than indians? How do you justify paying a PR person when you don’t have any PR events to manage? How do you justify spending shelter money on a bus, disaster relief trailer and transport trailer to get dogs from otu of state…yet NEVER use them? They are nothing but free standing billboards in the parking lot. Only people who are already coming in to the building can see them. What would the cost of those three things be? 100K combined? Board Members…what say you?

      • Lindsay on January 27, 2010 at 6:51 pm

        Way more than 100k, the bus alone is more than that, it was custom made with the cages and surgery suite.

        I definitely never hid my identity from angry customers when I worked there, I always gave my name and pointed them right to a manager! And usually I took a good lashing from said manager afterwards but I know when I’m right and if management was at all decent they’d back their employees.

  25. Mer on January 25, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Regarding the scant number of employees: according to the CHS webiste the Newington shelter/Fox clinic is about 30,000 square feet. http://www.cthumane.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_History

    As a point of perspective that’s the size of your average big box store. If a Target or a Borders had so few employees they would go out business for a lack of customer service. In the case of CHS though, the lack of “customer” service is the service of care afforded to the animals.

    The management has the skewed perspective that their first duty of care is to the public. It is not. It is to the animals. You simply cannot provide adequate animal care in a 30,000 square foot facility with a skeleton crew.

  26. Disgusted Volunteer on January 25, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    ATTENTION ALL VOLUNTEERS NOW IS THE TIME TO COME TOGETHER AND JOIN THE COALITION. IT HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION THAT THE STAFF HAS GOTTEN POOR REVIEWS BECAUSE WE HAVE COMPLAINED?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Thats right the management is blaming us, stating we have made several complaints against those that have chosen to UNIONIZE. Saying that they treat us unfairly and they are rude to the volunteers. Several of these people are on final warning. I am totally offended and disheartened that we would be used in this way. I thought you have to be an adult (18yrs old) to volunteer or work at CHS. The games are more like nursery.

    • Mayor Of Dogtown on January 25, 2010 at 8:35 pm

      THAT is by far the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. The staff is always very cordial to us volunteers. This sickens me! It just shows that the managers don’t even have the balls to do their own dirty work. To the staff, ask them to cite specific dates and times. They cannot arbitrarily make things up and put them in writing and say these must be true. The saddest part is that the managers (Kitty and Elizabeth) are probably the rudest to the volunteers in the first place. Elizabeth especially just doesn’t know how to talk to people so it mystified me when they made her a team leader BUT to compound that and then promote her to ASST Manager is ludicrous. Both the incoming staff and adoption staff need our support guys….

    • to disgusted on January 25, 2010 at 8:42 pm

      I have volunteered for a while and have only trouble with 2 staff, one I thiink her name was tabitha was very rude towards us is no longer there and the other one is a female with a polish accent can be quite rude but she seems to me to be one of the favorite toads of the bosses.
      The rest of then have been nothing but nice, professional and cordial.
      Come on volunteers!! GET ON BOARD,.without us they would be screwed,

    • Volunteer on January 26, 2010 at 8:54 am

      The only one that has ever been rude to me is Mr. Johnston, and that is because he mistook me for an employee! I love the staff at CHS. They are friendly, helpful, appreciative and so very hard working and talented. I have NEVER left there without being thanked. The managers seem to do a whole lot of running around accomplishing nothing. I can honestly say I have never been thanked by one of them (not that I need to be, it’s just something I noticed). It’s the workers that keep that place going and keep those animals cared for.

  27. OMD on January 25, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    I would like to see my hard earned money spent on the ANIMALS. Not electronic monitoring devices, new shirts, lawyers, a new time clock. The list goes on!!!!!!!!!!!! What else????? Help me here. Promotions and new management people.

    • InTheKnow on January 25, 2010 at 11:25 pm

      All good things come to those who wait.. This is exactly why these folks need a union.. To give someone a bad review as a way to punish the employes is simply childish and foolish, I agree, but you have to expect retaliation when truths are put out in the open.

      Just because you are a volunteer does not make you any less an employee at CHC and you are certainly NOT to be blamed. State facts, do not embellish, and please.. above all.. keep your heads.

      Don’t these expenditures have to be voted on by the board?

  28. Hypocrites on January 26, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Look at the Employment opportunities on the CHS website. They are looking for a Customer Care team leader and for a staff team leader. How many team leaders do they need? Seems like they need more standard, good old fashioned, in-the-trenches staff. But then again, why hire staff, when you can just hire more management….

  29. Andrea on January 26, 2010 at 9:36 am

    Hi George,

    I just read Sunday’s article in the NB Herald. Thank you for reporting on this and helping to bring about an investigation by the Attorney General’s office. I hate to think of funds being misused (for personal use) and the most important employees (those working directly with the animals) being treated so poorly. I adopted my cat, Rusty, from the CHS one year ago. The employee who assisted me in choosing Rusty was fantastic. I thought that the CHS was a no-kill shelter. I was horrified to read that animals are euthanized there. I believe in an earlier article you wrote that someone had rescued dogs that were going to be killed for minor behavior infractions. These dogs were rehabilitated and placed into loving homes.

    I’d like to thank you and the individuals who are involved in helping to stand up for the innocent, in this case the animals at the shelter. Thank you. I look forward to reading more and the outcome.

  30. Mer on January 26, 2010 at 11:24 am

    To all the volunteers commenting on how wonderful the staff is…if you are so inclined you could do the staff a tremendous service by writing to CHS and telling them how fantastic the staff is, and ask that those letters put in each staff members personnel file. I’m sure someone at the Coalition could provide you with names.

    Their personnel files are padded with write ups for the most arbitrary non-offenses. Having positive letters from volunteers (who work side by side with the staff, unlike the managers) shows that they are not the lazy bunch of misanthropes they are alleged to be.

    • to mer on January 26, 2010 at 10:14 pm

      I;d love to send letters about the staff to the company but they would probaly throw in the trash the way it sounds.
      The staff I can praise here are, Amanda, Chris and Eric for being so nice to me as a volunteer and observing their genuine love and care for the animals. I apologize the to a couple of more staff memnbers who’s names escape me for also being wonderful people.

      • Also a Volunteer on January 27, 2010 at 8:39 am

        Eric has a natural gift with animals. His demeanor is so calm and gentle and the animals respond to that. I’ve seen him outside walking some CRAZY dogs that have no idea how to walk on a leash and are jumping up and trying to bite at the leash, and he doesn’t break a stride. He never gets frustrated with them and he has this amazing capability to just calm them down. I also know he’s one of the ones treated very badly. That place needs to hold on to people like this and APPRECIATE them!!!

        • Focus on January 27, 2010 at 12:45 pm

          Lynn and Megan as well. They are always so pleasant and friendly, and are great with customers. Let’s face it, not all customers are a joy to be around, and those two ladies are always polite and kind, without fail. They are great to the volunteers as well. And, most importantly, they love the animals and do all they can to make the animals feel loved and safe.

    • Mayor Of Dogtown on January 27, 2010 at 6:32 pm

      MER, I have to agree…..we COULD all write on behalf of the staff but it would go on deaf ears or eyes…I asked that very question to a staff member and they said it would do absolutely no good. The manager’s have to KNOW what they are doing is wrong yet they do it anyway and in my eyes, they have lost ALL respect from the staff and the volunteers. If the rest of the volunteer’s knew about all this, they would be sickened.

      • So Very Concerned on January 28, 2010 at 6:50 pm

        If volunteers wrote their letters to the Hartford Courant or any other mainstream newspaper, trust me the management would sit up and take notice. The management at CHS is in very high mode of employee bullying nowand doing it with glee because they feel they can get away with it The economy is poor and no one can afford to lose their jobs…wow what a power trip.
        Ladies and gentelmen.. the current employees may go away, the union may fail…and who will suffer??? The animals by being in the hands of incompetent bafoons! Volunteers the animals and employees of CHS need you to take the next step. Oh by the way..if you write a letter to a newspaper, it’s published and then you are told by CHS management your services are no longer needed or your treated poorly when you go in…contact a reporter it’s a story they would love to write!

    • Philip on January 27, 2010 at 8:43 pm

      I also, as a volunteer in the cat condo, want to say how very professional, caring and empathic Lynn H. and Megan are. They are so great with the public AND the animals. Such employees should be valued and not treated as if they were “underlings”. After all, what the public sees are the adoption counselors and very little of the so-called managers. I also know that donations are beginning to suffer because of the publicity in the media. There has to be a complete change at the top and the sooner, the better.

  31. Pug Lady on January 26, 2010 at 11:48 am

    I have been volunteering once a week for going on three years. I also volunteer through my job durning the year. The majority of employees are wonderful and thank you. Since I am not there several days a week I am not into the loop of things. But there was one employee that I truly loved and looked forward to working with is no longer employed. Very sad. There are others that continue to work there that need to work on their people skills and at times I can not believe that actually work with the public. I have been in a customer service position as a associate as well as a manager. My hope is we can fix what is broken so that the employees are happy. In addition, to make it a better place for the animals because that is what it is all about. Down the road when I am ready to retire from my job I would love to work at the CHS part time but I want it to be a better place then it is. People now who work with me say. “Whats going on at the Humane Society?”and where I felt proud to work there I guess I feel alittle embarressed with the bad press.

  32. Just saying on January 26, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    When is the board of directors going to set up a meeting to talk about this with the AG. What are they waiting for? If there is nothing to hide or deny, don’t they want to get to the bottom of these allegations?! It would be in their best interest to address this right away for the sake of the animals, staff, volunteers and the public. Meanwhile the abuse continues, nothing has changed other than the managers and their new day to day rules it seems. If the president of chs and the board members are there to make a difference, then do your job! (if there’s nothing going on that’s wrongdoing.) I remember the days when after your daily work was finished (with a full staff) you had some time to walk dogs and play outside with them or even take 10 extra minutes to settle down a dog in their kennel so they can ajust to their surroundings better. It looks like the mission for chs has changed from caring about the animals and people to over working the staff and volunteers and blaming them for the way things are. Of course things wouldn’t of gotten this bad if the right people were in charge!

  33. InTheKnow on January 26, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    A quote attributed to Edmund Burke, 18th century philosopher… “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is for decent men to do nothing”

    But keep your personal feelings about RJ to yourselves please. Stick to facts and only facts.Right will prevail

  34. Harry P. on January 26, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    The Coalition for Change was started because of two things: 1. the long term unfair treatment of the animal care staff was apalling and 2. the lack of staff coupled with bad management and poor policies was negatively affecting the care of the animals. Many many employees and volunteers had tried to make improvements for many years. Nothing helped, no one succeeded, and things got worse. After the Coalition was formed, the Machinists Union was approached. The Union was chosen simply to try and provide the employees with some degree of protection as we continued on the path laid down before us. In order to improve CHS, we have to stand together and be given the opportunity to be heard by the Board of Directors. We will not give up. We will prevail.

  35. volunteer on January 27, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Hmmm……..perhaps it’s time that we reach out to our pears in the volunteer staff and see how the rest of us feel. Maybe if we approached the management en masse and express our concern about the treatment of our mentors, yes our mentors who are always there to answer our questions and give us advice when we ask them. The staff that management keeps stepping crapping on.
    What are they going to do, fire us. Once this gets legs they will have a hard time getting people to volunteer. I wouldn’t be to concerned about the animals, they will be just fine.

    • volunteer on January 27, 2010 at 8:56 pm

      oops……… i mean peers

      • InTheKnow on January 28, 2010 at 2:52 pm

        I would not approach any of them at this point. If you are so inclined to band together than write your issues down and sign them.. One copy to management, a copy to OSHA, the union, the AG’s office AND to George here. Just be ready to be told your services are no longer required and if that happens.. To the media it goes once again.

        Seriously, before you do anything.. speak to the coalition.

        • to in the know on January 28, 2010 at 3:05 pm

          Yea, I just wanted to throw it out there and see whatkind of feedback I would get. Just a thought.
          Thanks

          • InTheKnow on February 1, 2010 at 11:59 am

            Believe me.. I understand the frustration you all feel. I just read where they want to stop the morning shift so a manager can be there.. That is just absolute cruelty to have dogs wait to go out. Just cruel.
            I read all the posts.. good, bad and indifferent and I have to say that I am so proud of all of you, volunteers and staff who have finally come together to end this BS and bring the society back to where it once was all about, caring for the animals.

        • Also a Volunteer on January 29, 2010 at 10:24 am

          Yea I would not want to come forward because I’m sure I would be told that my services would no longer be needed. I love volunteering there and caring for the animals, it is a huge part of my life. But I’ll do everything I can to support the good people at CHS and make what is wrong right.

          “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

  36. Anon on January 28, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    As and employee I just want to say thank you to all the volunteers who are supporting us. I think I speak for all of my co-workers when I say I am deeply moved by your comments, and appreciate the support. We and the animals value you and your work with us at CHS, and I haven’t the words to express the gratitude I feel towards all of you. Again, thank you everyone!

  37. Jan Kozlowski on February 1, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Thanks George, not only for this great series of articles on the deplorable conditions at the CT Humane Society, but for spotlighting Cathy and giving her the props that she deserves. She is an amazing lady!





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