A storm of controversy has beset the Kitsap Humane Society (KHS) since the unexplained departure of Executive Director (ED) Sean Compton in late January. Since then, KHS staff members, volunteers, and sponsors have expressed bafflement and regret over Compton’s departure, as well as grave concern about the conduct of the Board.
With the resignation of Animal Welfare Director Stacey Price today, March 14, the turmoil at KHS continues. Price submitted her decision to step down in a single-spaced seven-page letter, detailing her irreconcilable differences with the Board and expressing concern for KHS animals, staff, and supporters, whom she said are not being served by the Board’s conduct: “I have zero confidence in the board’s oversight and ability to do what is right. It has become apparent in the last few months they only take action when the spotlight is on them. I believe at the heart of integrity and leadership is . . . how you conduct yourself when no one is watching.”
Just two weeks ago, Price, along with KHS Public Relations & Development Director Abby Ouimet and major KHS donor and volunteer Heidi Wakefield, took legal steps to attempt to hold the Board accountable for alleged misconduct. On February 27, their attorney, Heather R. Straub, sent a 14-page letter to the Board, detailing “on behalf of KHS stakeholders” their concerns and requesting full disclosure regarding self-dealing conflicts of interest, misuse of funds, bad faith in dealings with staff, and a lack of managerial transparency and oversight.
In the attorney’s letter, they expressed a desire to resolve the problems internally but explained that, if the Board did not adequately address its concerns in a timely fashion, Ouimet, Price, and Wakefield would report them to the Washington State Attorney General’s office.
Furthermore, the letter requested that the Board remediate its alleged misconduct by reinstating Compton as ED, replacing Hazel Bellinger and Karyn Kline with new independent Board members, cooperating with a financial audit and investigation of KHS, and amending the nonprofit’s bylaws to improve transparency and accountability.
When I spoke with Price, she told me she believed that Compton was removed by the Board after he “asked too many questions” about construction contracts at KHS that allegedly represented a conflict of interest for at least one Board member, Tom Chaffey, who has since left KHS. An emotional Price shared a laundry list of complaints about what she sees as the Board’s misconduct over the last few years, expressing distress about the effects of such actions on the morale of the staff, the faith of sponsors and citizens, and the well-being of the animals in KHS’s care.
When I contacted Price’s, Wakefield’s, and Ouimet’s attorney, Straub, for comment, she made the following statement: “This letter was not intended for general publication or distribution. The Board has indicated that a financial audit is under way and that they will hire an investigator, and that the results of those inquiries will be released to the Board’s attorney within 60 days. It remains to be seen whether the Board will adequately address the concerns outlined in the letter, although we certainly hope that is the case.”
Thus far, the KHS Board has not disclosed whether they have hired an investigator or, if they have or plan to, whether the results of the investigation will be released to the public. An informant says the Board has hired for its financial audit the same auditor they have used for years.
I spoke with KHS Board President Karyn Kline in an off-the-record conversation last month. She failed to deliver on a promised followup with me about the ongoing controversy at KHS. So far she and the other Board members have declined to discuss with the press Compton’s departure or the allegations against them. Although the KHS staff’s contact information is listed on the organization’s website, the Board’s is not. When I reached Kline for comment, she expressed stupefaction that I was able to track down her contact information.
Photos courtesy of Kitsap Humane Society.