The Connecticut Humane Society is making additional changes to practices and procedures at the charity. The changes are outlined in a letter from the Board of Directors to employees, donors and volunteers and come on the heels of a report from the attorney general's office urging immediate reforms.
The letter details some of the findings from an internal investigation conducted by a Board of Directors subcommittee into allegations of corruption and mistreatment of animals. The charity's president and board chairman, Richard Johnston, resigned last month under a growing cloud of controversy.
The Board of Directors will revise its conflict of interest policy to require that any contracts awarded to board members will be put out to bid first, according to the letter.
In his report, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal encouraged the charity to seek at least two bids before awarding any business to board members.
A recent NBC Connecticut investigation highlighted how companies linked to board members or key employees received more than $570,000 in business from the charity from 2006 to 2008.
All board-related business is "at or below fair market value," according to the letter. The board also states in the letter, "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."
Other changes outlined in the letter include:
- The planned hiring of a personnel director
- Regular staff meetings
- Opportunities for staff to meet the board
- A mechanism for staff to propose ideas or raise concerns in a safe and secure environment
- A revised euthanasia policy where a four or five person committee will review cases
- Safety violations found by OSHA have been corrected
The letter also stated the committee found no evidence of financial misconduct and calls accusations "unfounded."
A recent NBC Connecticut investigation reported concerns raised by animal advocates including workers being required to babysit Johnston's daughter on company time and liquor purchases made by Johnston on a charity credit card. The Attorney General's investigation into allegations of financial wrongdoing at the charity continues and also includes whether Johnston used charitable dollars for political mailings.
The letter does not address one of the key recommendations by the Attorney General, which was to increase the amount of money that is put toward animal care.
The Attorney General's report called the charity's $52 million fund balance "unnecessary and excessive." The charity restricts 88 percent of its unrestricted assets and puts just about 5.5 percent toward general purposes, according to the report.
In its letter, the Board of Directors wrote, "We will continue to examine all aspects of the organization with an eye to improving systems, management, and of course, animal care."
The Coalition for Change is calling for further changes at the Connecticut Humane Society. The organization first began speaking out about practices at the charity in January. Now, spokesperson Cathy DeMarco is calling for all board members who have received business from the charity to resign. She also wants to see Coalition members appointed to two board positions.
"The CHS needs courageous leadership immediately. The situation is urgent," DeMarco wrote by e-mail. "The Board and new Executive Director need to be able to unify and motivate all workers and volunteers who have been forgotten and disillusioned over time."