The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

February 5, 2013

Humane society sees missing funds

BY JENNIFER BAILEY
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — If the Humane Society of Danville hasn’t had enough controversy, some more has come its way.

Its director, Shawn Miller, resigned during the weekend due to management issues, according to the humane society’s board president Pete Lary.

“We were going to re-assign his duties,” Lary said.

Also, a separate issue was about $500 in missing funding from annual dog park tag fees.

“We didn’t suspect (Miller) of any misappropriation of funds,” Lary said.

Lary said there is a “thief in our employment” and it’s been going on for three or four months.

The $10 dog park fees, in which the humane society had been collecting in cash, were not being deposited on a daily basis like they were supposed to be, he said.

“(The collected fees) were stashed around the place,” he added.

Lary said there were “management shortcomings. Things were not being done as they should be done. This business is going on under (Miller’s) command.”

Board treasurer JoAnn Adams noticed the missing funds. Adams retired as director after 31 years in July 2011. That’s when Miller became director.

Lary said Miller was warned about the issue and that changes were needed with the fee collection. To eliminate the cash temptation, the humane society now takes checks only, not cash. It’s unfortunate and it is inconvenient for some people, Lary admits.

Lary said the police department wasn’t contacted about the theft of money because it can’t be proven.

Lary said board members have a “strong suspicion” of the employee involved and if the theft can be proven, the person will be arrested and prosecuted.

“We are not a cash cow,” Lary said.

In the meantime, Adams will serve as interim director for about two months until another director is brought in. Lary said they already have somebody in line who meets the qualifications and has experience in the field. The person also had applied for the position when Miller was hired.

This controversy follows the continuing debate about possibly creating a city-county shelter.

Allegations of abuse and neglect and problems with workers at the Humane Society of Danville were brought up by several people during city council meetings, one being a summer worker at the city shelter last year.

The city council’s public services committee asked that a smaller committee look into all the costs and possible options.

The city’s Animal Regulatory Compliance Enforcement Committee’s recommendation is for a city-county shelter.

The committee’s recommendation is to build a 4,500-square-foot addition, with an estimated cost of $675,000 to the city, to Vermilion County’s Catlin-Tilton Road animal shelter to also house the city’s animals.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said he has a proposal from the Danville Humane Society to continue providing animal control and shelter services, too. He wouldn’t go into details about it.

Also, the smaller committee of dog park and city and county representatives also has started meeting again this year to come up with costs and its recommendation. The public services committee will then review all proposals and forward its recommendation to the full city council.

Until that time, the city will work with the humane society on a month-to-month basis for animal control.

The city doesn’t oversee the humane society. The humane society is overseen by a director and board.

The city’s current contract with the humane society has expired. The humane society is operating on a month-to-month basis with the city, while the city looks at options.

The city had entered into three-year contracts in the past. The city budgets $73,000 for animal control, with an additional $5,000 budgeted for gasoline for the humane society. The funding comes from the city’s general city government fund.

Lary said the humane society wants a long-term contract again.

The humane society is down a service truck (from two to one) due to costly repairs. It also would eliminate at least a night employee if it doesn’t have a city contract.

Without a city contract, the humane society likely would see fewer hours of operation, salary adjustments and other service cuts, Lary said.

“A lot of our budgeting goes on whether or not we have a contract,” Lary said, adding board members would have to reevaluate services and it will formulate a plan to proceed without a city contract.

If the humane society has a city contract, it would purchase a new truck and keep its on-call and other staff.

“We’re not going to continue to pay for more people than we actually need. We can’t be in fiscal limbo,” Lary said.

In the meantime, “everything is running as it typically does,” he added.