Tag Archive | "Stacey Price"

Deer in Headlights at Public Meeting, Humane Society Board Loses Potential $500K Donation

The only surprise at Saturday’s contentious annual public Kitsap Humane Society (KHS) Board of Directors meeting was how surprised the Board looked as they faced over two hours of fiery public comment.

Upwards of 250 people packed the Silverdale Community Center for their first chance to hear from and speak to the Board since the seismic departure of Executive Director Sean Compton in late January and a subsequently widening rift between the Board and staff, volunteers, donors, and the public.

The Board’s egregious omission of KHS volunteers from the list of stakeholders it thanked during its introductory remarks started the meeting off with angry outbursts from the crowd and did little to allay the perception among many that Board members continue to be tone deaf to their community.

Newly appointed Board President and long-time Board member Rosemary Shaw looked stricken throughout the event, apologizing repeatedly on behalf of the Board for its failure to adequately communicate with its stakeholders after Compton left and during the tumultuous two months since then, in which two more key KHS directors quit. “I apologize for the lack of communication,” said Shaw, adding, “We take your allegations about the Board very seriously. We know we need to rebuild your trust.”

Former Animal Welfare Director Stacey Price addressing the Board.

Stacey Price addressing the Board.

KHS Public Relations & Development Director Abby Ouimet resigned from KHS last week, preceded by the resignation of Animal Welfare Director Stacey Price less than a week earlier. Both cited dissatisfaction with the Board’s unresponsiveness to a 14-page attorney’s letter they initiated with donor and volunteer Heidi Wakefield, in which they accused the Board of misconduct and requested the reinstatement of Compton.

The Board and its new Interim Executive Director, Eric Stevens, have arranged for an independent audit at KHS, due to begin this week. They also have pledged to bring on new Board members and improve communication and transparency with staff and other stakeholders.

These steps have not swayed the decision of major donor Nicole Boand, who has withdrawn plans of a $500,000 donation to KHS. In a letter read by a representative of Boand at the meeting, Boand said she had decided to donate the money after being impressed with Compton, but she has since changed her mind because of his departure and the Board’s lack of explanation for it. Boand said, “It has been nearly two months since Rosemary Shaw said she will get back to me regarding Sean Compton’s departure.”

An audience member responded with a shout to the Board: “Half a million dollars wasn’t important enough for you to pick up the phone and call her?” to which Shaw responded, “I owe her an apology, and I owe her a phone call.”

Full house for KHS public BOD meeting March 24, 2012.

A full house.

In Boand’s letter, she also questioned why certain Board members were exempted from term-limits that were enacted at KHS in 2009, allowing a maximum of two three-year terms. Shaw explained that the Board had wanted to allow for continuity, but she said that in hindsight Board members should not have been grandfathered in.

Numerous staff and donors spoke in praise of Compton, citing his genuine love of animals and his innovative programming. One described in tears how he was working to socialize a feral cat, who he kept in his office. When one person asked directly if it was a possibility for Compton to be reinstated, the Board answered an unequivocal no. When asked to explain why, they cited a legally binding confidentiality agreement that the Board and Compton are required to abide by as the reason for their lack of explanation.

Dan Hagen echoed the remarks of other audience members when he asked the Board to step down. “I just don’t think you get it,” he said. “We’re sitting here watching the Humane Society with expectant eyes for something to change.”

Others present at the meeting praised and defended the Board. A few thanked them for their unpaid public service and reminded the audience that their hands were tied by their confidentiality agreement with Compton.

New KHS interim manager Robin Simons praised KHS and its Board, explaining that she has worked for dozens of nonprofits for many years and that she thinks KHS is the best she has seen. She cited its open admission policy of taking any animals combined with its low (6%) euthanasia rate as being exemplary. “I started out thinking it was Sean who was responsible for the achievements here, but what I figured out was that the Board had that ethic before Sean came.”

Board addressing auidience.

The Board addressing the audience.

KHS veterinarian Jennifer Stonequist, who received widespread applause when she stepped up to the podium, said, “I want to take a second to look at the present.” She listed the many successes and strengths of the organization, reminding listeners that KHS is still moving forward and asked supporters to stay with them. “We are still going to need you to make our vision a reality,” she said.

After the conclusion of public comment and minutes before the meeting was forced to end because of another scheduled event in the hall, Interim Executive Director Eric Stevens delivered final remarks. Although rallying his professionalism, it was evident that Stevens was rattled by what he had witnessed at the meeting.

“Now we have an ethical obligation to do an audit, whether the entire Board steps down or stays,” he said. “At every other organization I’ve worked with there was more and better communication between staff and Board—that needs to happen here.”

Stevens continued, “I know right now the future of this organization rests in this room. I think it can be constructive, but it also scares me, because things have already blown apart. I’m not sure the organization can take any more.”

Read our previous articles about the KHS shakeup:

An Exodus, Audit, and New Interim Director at the Kitsap Humane Society

Turmoil at Kitsap Humane Society Continues with Resignation of Animal Welfare Director

Kitsap Humane Society Executive Director’s Departing Shockwave

 

Photos by Julie Hall.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Posted in Animals, CommunityComments (0)

An Exodus, Audit, and Interim Executive Director at the Kitsap Humane Society

With the resignation this week on March 20, 2012, of Kitsap Humane Society (KHS) Public Relations & Development Director Abby Ouimet, the organization has lost three of four directors in less than two months.

Ouimet’s resignation came on the heels of that of Animal Welfare Director Stacey Price, who resigned from KHS less than a week earlier, on March 14. Both women were highly regarded by the community and their peers for the innovations and commitment they brought to the organization, and both left citing irreconcilable differences with the Board of Directors, which they outlined in a 14-page letter issued by their attorney on February 27, 2012. They along with KHS donor and volunteer Heidi Wakefield, who also initiated the letter, called for numerous changes at KHS, including the reinstatement of former Executive Director Sean Compton, the resignations of Board Members Karyn Kline and Hazel Bellinger, and investigation of alleged misconduct by the Board.

Abby Ouimet

Abby Ouimet.

In the wake of Compton’s departure, which Ouimet calls a firing, other staff members have left KHS too, adding up to an exodus of approximately 10 percent of the organization’s employees, as well as an unknown number of volunteers and donors. Since Compton left KHS in late January, the organization’s Board has been nothing short of besieged with questions and accusations.

I spoke at length yesterday with Interim Executive Director Eric Stevens, who responded to my email with a prompt phone call and a profuse willingness to talk. He joined KHS on February 15, leaving his position at The Bloedel Reserve as their Fundraising Development Director. Stevens has an extensive background working for respected nonprofits as both an Executive Director and an Interim Executive Director.

To help with management and reorganizing at KHS, Stevens has hired on an interim basis Robin Simons, who he told me also has long-time experience working with nonprofits both locally and nationally. Both Stevens and Simons reside on Bainbridge Island, where Sean Compton also lives.

Stevens acknowledged that “the Board’s silence has likely fueled more questions, and that has been unfortunate.” He explained to me that he sees three main “buckets” of issues facing the KHS Board:

  1. The need to expand and diversify itself;
  2. The need to change its relationship with staff, adding more visibility between the two; and
  3. The need to investigate allegations of conflicts of interest and mismanagement among some of its members.

To address these issues, Stevens believes the Board “has to step aside and have outside input.” To that end, he helped select a company to perform an internal audit of KHS and, as he put it, “separate fact from fiction.” Stevens and the Board interviewed 4-5 firms to perform the audit. They turned down a local firm they were about to hire after discovering a conflict of interest in which a board member and employee of the firm knew each other personally. Ultimately, they ended up hiring a company in Bellevue, Berntson Porter & Company, to conduct the audit, which is scheduled to start next week and take approximately 60 days.

Eric Stevens.

Eric Stevens.

Stevens explained that the purpose of the audit is to determine whether there was wrongdoing by the Board, either illegal or unethical, and to provide recommendations for improvement at the Board and management level, which the organization is obligated to put into practice. He said, “As soon as the audit is completed, KHS will share the results with the media and public.”

In the meantime, Stevens said he is working hard to “help the Board and organization navigate.” He pointed out that there is value in an organization being challenged, and he asks the community to “be patient and reserve judgment” until the results of the audit are complete.

“Day to day, the shelter is still operating—intakes, adoptions, and surgeries. . . . I am most concerned about the animals and staff,” said Stevens. When I asked him about the current morale at KHS, he said morale is low but added, “We have a passionate, dedicated, talented staff. While morale has been hit by all the turmoil and change, we are also asking staff who are here to be ‘part of the solution’ and bring everything they can to make Kitsap Humane Society a stronger place going forward. I have confidence that with the support of our staff, volunteers, donors, board, and community, we will move forward, and continue to be (as we have been) one of the outstanding animal shelters in the U.S.”

Stevens went on to say that he believes the Board is taking constructive steps right now to improve things at KHS. Board Secretary Rosemary Shaw is poised to replace Karyn Kline as Board President, effective March 24, 2012. The current 8-member Board is looking to expand to 15 members and says it is actively recruiting new members. But Stevens cautioned that it would be premature and injudicious to remove Board members before the audit is complete.

Sean Compton and friend.

Sean Compton and friend.

For Abby Ouimet and Stacey Price, change at KHS did not come fast enough. In an email to Stevens announcing her resignation, Ouimet said she felt she had been “targeted” since sending the attorney letter. She continued, “I like to conduct myself with integrity, honesty and sincerity when asking people to invest in our mission. Sean and Stacey made that easy. Ever since Sean was let go, it’s been a battle field. I have had several phone calls and meetings with many of our supporters and they all have expressed the same concerns and outrage that I have passed onto you, yet the Board has done NOTHING to talk to these people or treat them with regard. I find that unacceptable.”

About Ouimet, Stevens told me, “I could see that Abby was conflicted; it was affecting her work,” adding that he respected her decision to move on. That sentiment was made clear in tense email exchanges between Stevens and Ouimet before her resignation.

For her part, Ouimet told Stevens in her resignation letter that she felt she could not “work effectively with [him].” She concluded by saying, “I wish KHS success and hope the mission does not change. With the exception of the last two months, this was my dream job and I am grateful to Sean for the opportunity.”

This Saturday, March 24, 2012, KHS is holding its annual public Board meeting starting at 3:30 p.m. at the Silverdale Community Center at 9729 Silverdale Way NW. The meeting place and time were changed to accommodate more public participation. It will begin with a public forum, before which individuals may sign up upon arrival to speak or ask questions. To submit comments or questions in advance, members of the public should contact Eric Stevens at executivedirector@kitsap-humane.org. You can contact KHS at www.kitsap-humane.org.

 

Photos courtesy of Eric Stevens and the Kitsap Humane Society.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Posted in AnimalsComments (0)

Kitsap Humane Society Executive Director’s Departing Shockwave

In late January, 2012, Sean Compton abruptly departed from his position as Executive Director (ED) of the Kitsap Humane Society (KHS), sending a shockwave across the county’s animal rescue community and leaving many unanswered questions about the reasons for his departure and how it will affect KHS and its base of donor support in the months to come.

Compton, who served as ED of KHS for nearly three years starting in May of 2009, helped implement numerous KHS reforms.

Under his stewardship, KHS increased its rehabilitation and adoption rates, cutting its euthanasia from approximately 25-30 percent down to 5-6 percent. KHS Director of Animal Welfare Stacey Price explained to me that the remaining 5-6 percent of animals who are ultimately euthanized are ones who are unadoptable because of illness or behaviors beyond rehabilitation.

During Compton’s tenure, KHS also expanded the size of its cat cages, which had previously been too small for the cats to stretch into an arch position and lacked privacy, and the organization improved the ventilation system in the cat room to help prevent the spread of airborne disease.

Under Compton’s direction, KHS also improved its vet clinic and moved its staff into offices in a donated modular building to make more room in its main building for its animals. Price added that Compton had other improvements planned at KHS, such as creating a cat free-roaming room with climbing trees and perches, but she wasn’t sure what would happen to those plans with him gone.

Since Compton’s departure it is no exaggeration to say that a storm of speculation and accusation has besieged KHS. A petition written by an unidentified “former board member, dog walker, and donor of Kitsap Humane Society” has circulated and garnered close to 280 signatures so far. The petition calls for the removal of the 9-member KHS Board and declares them to be guilty of “a long line of abuses,” including misusing construction funds, catering to their own businesses or friendship interests, and not touching or adopting KHS animals.

I spoke with Melissa Byrd, who worked at KHS for ten years until 2007 in nearly all areas of operations there, including adoption outreach, animal control, and front desk duty. Byrd told me she thinks the petition doesn’t reflect what she knows to be true of the KHS Board. “I have worked with some of these people side by side rescuing animals, cleaning cages, transporting, fostering. Some are more hands-on than others, but they are unpaid volunteers who are there because they love animals.” Bryd added, “Employees come and go, Board members come and go, Executive Directors come and go, but the one constant is the animals and their need for care.”

humane society rescue catA current KHS Board member I contacted for comment on this story explained to me that the Board is legally and ethically bound not to comment on the reasons for Compton’s departure. Although this Board member wanted to be able to speak more candidly, the Board member asked to be quoted as follows: “According to KHS policy, we do not discuss personnel. There will be an official statement released next week regarding the direction of KHS in the future.”

A KHS staff member, who also declined to be named, told me that the Board instructed all staff members not to speak to the public or press about Compton’s break with KHS. She also said that for two days following Compton’s departure only internal KHS email was functioning, leaving staff members unable to send or receive external email. Although the staff was told the situation was a technical problem, this staff member said that she believes the Board was responsible for the email shutdown. She described the Board’s attitude as follows: “Either you’re with us, or you’re out.”

PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap Executive Director Mark Hufford had this to say about Compton’s departure: “Under Sean Compton’s tenure at KHS, PAWS was able to expand our cooperative, working relationship with KHS, which absolutely benefited the animals and animal-loving families who we all serve. That working relationship was nurtured and improved not just by Sean, but by both current and former KHS staff, by donors to both organizations, and by both KHS and PAWS board members. Naturally, we are eager to continue building on this cooperative relationship going forward.”

Humane Society rescue dog.

One past KHS Board member I spoke with, who declined to be named, explained that she left because of her frustration with the Executive Director who served before Compton, Don McBurney. She told me that McBurney, who had worked previously as a military officer and did not have experience working in animal welfare before joining KHS, alienated numerous Board members, staff, and donors, some of whom withdrew their support during his brief term as ED. Although she left before Compton’s time at KHS, this past Board member called Compton “a breath of fresh air” and expressed bafflement and dismay over his departure. Teri Cole, who also served briefly on the KHS Board during McBurney’s tenure as ED and left because of her dissatisfaction with McBurney, also told me she had a very positive impression of the work Compton was doing at KHS.

It bears noting that the KHS Board hired Sean Compton in McBurney’s place after an extensive national search for a new Executive Director.

Another former long-term staff member of KHS, who asked not to be named for fear of legal reprisal, explained that the role of the Executive Director at KHS is the most powerful position in the organization—the “go between” between the Board and staff. She pointed out that the ED speaks with the Board privately, without transparency with the staff, and the ED also oversees and directs the staff, without transparency with the Board. In the case of Sean Compton, she said it was her impression that he “manipulated his role, playing the Board and staff against one each other.”

Whatever abuses may have occurred at KHS, the perception of abuse exists, which does not serve the goals of the organization as expressed in their mission statement:

KHS Mission statement

Apparently several days after leaving KHS, Compton wrote a letter to the KHS staff, which surfaced online and has been circulating via email. Here is his letter:

For many of us, the beginning of a path in animal welfare starts with similar elements. Often pain is involved, such as witnessing an act of cruelty or losing a loved one. At the same time the path also begins with gratitude, a sense of wanting to give back and protect an animal after experiencing the joy they gave us.

It is easy to be grateful for the good things in our lives, but can we be grateful for the bad things too? That’s when you know you’re really moving along.  I’m so incredibly thankful for the painful memories that pushed me into serving both animals and the people that work for them. (surely there are those I have hurt along the away as well that will celebrate my departure as well)

So, there are no absolutes. One person’s villain is the hero of another. I feel bad if coyotes pull down a deer in the woods, but I am happy their families will eat. It is our attachments that hurt us, I can tell you firsthand because I know how attached to you I am.

Why are you upset? If you know me you know I never want you upset. My job has only ever been to bring out that which is already inside of you. I did not give you this goodness and it cannot be taken away, so my departure really does not mean that much. This goodness inside of you is the only thing in life that is permanent. Even if you disappear, it remains. Everything else in life is temporary. My departure had to come eventually but you are unchanged, so we should look positively to the future rather than regret the past.

I leave with joy, remembering how we have walked together. You each know your own story. We have walked together through your marriage problems, births of children, financial difficulties, animals we lost, quitting smoking, cancer, deployment, court room drama, sick relatives, running out of firewood, car accidents, holiday bonus needs, sons serving in the armed forces, dance recitals, losing a mother, marriage, tattoos, citronella, dog walking, towing outreach trailers, Jorge’s summer grilling, Chihuahuas, turtles, the all staff training day we all snuck out to the park in Bremerton for sun, and sharing lunch.

Truth is, this is why I stayed at KHS at all towards the end. It was hard for me to become your director when I had worked so closely with animals before. It’s hard to trade in scrubs for boring khakis and a sweater. But, by the time I arrived I witnessed too many horrors:  a cat put in a microwave, a dog that was raped by a mentally ill person, my medical team that had to euthanize 94 cats in an afternoon because of panleuk, veterinarians not treating animals. It gets old fast and I’ve had over a decade of trauma. This time, it was the people that made the job special.

KHS was in a tough place when I arrived. I remember my first day. After everybody left I stayed and sat in the kennel. I was shocked at what was happening and got upset. That kind of reaction was really self indulgent though. The real reaction was when I got up, said I would never cry again, and that I wouldn’t stop until we helped these animals. Now look what you’ve accomplished! Now that we’re here it’s time for somebody else to lead that doesn’t sleep with the nightmares of yesterday. Now KHS has you. I love so much when new folks arrive, because their eyes only see what can improve from now, not how well we did before or how we fixed the past.

Even more, I have loved the veteran volunteers and staff.  You carry the heart of KHS, more so than I ever could. As has always been the case, it is your job to guide and mentor those that are new.

Now, more than ever before, harmony is what is important. Without harmony in a group so diverse, we never would have gotten through the Olalla seizure the way we did. Without harmony we could not have achieved what we did in the ASPCA challenge. If you lose this harmony in your upset at my departure it will be too high a price to pay.

Every director will tell the world how much they love their organization. With my whole being though, I say this was the best group of people I ever worked with and likely ever will. One day if we are lucky enough to become old and gray, we will look back on our time together as one of the greatest things we ever did. We used our lives to save others, sacrificing bigger and better things we could have had. Each of you does this in many ways daily.

At age 36 having done this with you, married the most incredible person in the world, live now in the beauty of Puget Sound, and leave now with memories of each of you to meditate upon, I’m not sure what’s really left for me. Perhaps it is time to go on a special vacation, and remember what life used to be like before 70 hour work weeks. Aimee thinks it’s a good time for me to think about meditating on a new resume soon.  ;)

So, the weather is changing and spring will be here soon. Some of you have asked what you can do to not let me go or get me back. So, don’t let me go and instead keep in your heart what we have done and learned together as you create the future. If I may ask anything of you as I leave, please consider these 8 requests:

  1. Know and do not forget that since 2009 roughly 1800 additional animals that would have
    been euthanized instead found a loving home, in addition to all the others we normally
    saved.
  2. Always try to show kindness and include those that have special needs. We have them as
    staff and volunteers. They more than anybody are closest to my heart, and I ask you to
    protect and nourish them. They will enrich you always.
  3. Show visitors the line in our new clinic that marks where the huge dead animal freezer used
    to be, and tell them why we no longer need it.
  4. Find Wildcard somebody that will love and protect him.
  5. Put all your differences aside and push together towards a more humane world. Life is short
    and we only have little time together.
  6. Have gratitude for all the things that happen in your life, not just the things we want to
    happen.
  7. Get a tattoo, soon.
  8. Cheer for the Steelers.

I love you my friends. Care for one another and put our animals first always. Thanks for the time of my life.

Sean

Compton did not respond to my attempts to contact him for comment on this story.

 

Images courtesy of KHS and Mark Peters.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Posted in Animals, Community, NewsComments (0)


Bay Hay and Feed
Virginia Mason