VALLEY, Al. (WRBL) – The Chattahoochee Humane Society Board looked to use Monday’s meeting to attempt easing tensions in the community.
As News 3 reported in April 2018, the combined Valley and Lanett animal shelter received a close to $300,000 bequeathment to build a new facility. The board now admits, that dream first announced in 2015 will not become reality.
“There were some very good intentions with some big hearted folks that never thought about a key issue, which is feasibility,” Vice Chair Dantz Frazer said during the meeting.
“We had a previous person with some grand plans of doing some fundraising and raising a large amount of money, but that person is no longer with us [the board] and the dream kinda died with her,” says Board President Stanley Tucker. “We hate it.”
Tucker also pointed out every currently sitting board member, with the exception of Board Secretary Shirlee Ausman, is a new member. He says after the previous board spent close to $240,000 of the bequeathment on the unfinished shelter building that was ultimately deeded back to the original owner in January of this year, the new board hopes to use the remaining funds more wisely.
“We’ve still got some money. We’re going to improve our existing facility out there. Our overall goal would be to work ourselves out of a job. We would hope everyone would spay and neuter the animals so we wouldn’t need a shelter,” Tucker says.
Ron McClellan attended the meeting to ask questions on behalf of his concerned friends and neighbors.
“I was surprised with their answers, you know I thought this was going to be an appeasement session where they get to once question, give it a non-answer, then move to the next person to not answer them as well. That’s what I was expecting, but I was happy they took responsibility,” McClellan says to News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton.
However, McClellan still voiced his community’s concerns over accountability for years of unfiled taxes. The board confirmed during Monday’s meeting the Chattahoochee Humane Society’s taxes were either completely unfiled or done late for close to five years.
Board Member John Radford answered reporter questions saying the shelter’s 2013 taxes were filed in 2015 and the returns for 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 were not filed at all. The lack of proper tax returns is what forced the IRS to remove the shelter’s 501c3 non-profit charity status, thus leaving the shelter unable to accept monetary donations.
“Once we identified that there were some discrepancies in the reporting, we immediately stopped, identified, found new accounting individuals to handle our affairs, and our first goal was to get the 501c3 status reestablished,” Radford explains.
The board announced during the meeting it hired Machen McChesney, a CPA firm out of Auburn, in February 2018 to bring the Chattahoochee Humane Society’s taxes up to compliance. The shelter’s 501c3 status was reinstated in May of this year and made retroactive to date back to May 2017.
Radford further confirms the former board treasurer and accountant, identified on the shelter’s tax forms as Wayne Scroggs, was fired when the tax issues were discovered. However, McClellan says he believes the board should take a step further.
“I have a hard time believing there was no illegal act taking place here,” McClellan says. “There should be some kind of censure or fine, that’s a thing I don’t know, it’s above my pay grade, but I think that’s something the board should look into.”
When asked by McClellan whether the board would consider taking action to hold Scroggs accountable for years of unfiled taxes, Vice Chair Frazer replied, “I urge you to contact the Attorney General. You know, the legality of that, we just don’t know.”
“I know ya’ll aren’t the police, I’m just saying, there’s got to be some kind of accountability for this,” McClellan said.
“I don’t think that is our goal and never will be. I think what we’re simply trying to do is move forward from a bad situation and bring this humane society up to the standards that it once was,” Radford says.
He adds the shelter has seen positive changes since the restructuring of the board. Radford says the shelter’s June 2019 intake numbers show more than 50% were live releases, either to adoption or to other shelters. He says this is a favorable change to previous numbers less than 20% in 2017.
“I didn’t really expect to be swayed too much today, but they did, they managed to sway me. I’m disappointed that they don’t want to put more effort into holding past board members accountable, but overall I liked what I heard. It sounds like they mean business, it sounds like they’re tightening up,” McClellan says after the meeting.