June 23, 2018 — The Oregon Coast Humane Society (OCHS) held its annual membership meeting June 21 at Lane Community College Florence Center.
It was the first OCHS board meeting open to members since the election of a new board of directors in April following a recommendation by the Oregon Department of Justice (ODJ) to hold an election to seat new directors as soon as procedures for the process could be put in place. The ODJ’s recommendation was the result of an inquiry undertaken after members complained of voting irregularities and personality conflicts within OCHS.
ODJ’s inquiry turned up no financial or criminal wrong doing and primarily focused remediation efforts to replace previously seated board members whom ODJ lawyers felt had been elected or appointed under questionable circumstances.
None of the previously serving directors choose to run for re-election and all seven seats on the board were filled by new directors.
For the seven individuals on the new board, their primary task has been aimed at restoring the community’s confidence in the leadership of OCHS.
At Wednesday’s meeting, a table was set up to assure all attendees were current members of the OCHS. The board of directors were seated at a long table with their names prominently displayed on placards at the front of a large classroom. Copies of the meeting agenda and reports from board members were made available to all attendees.
Board President Jack Hannigan has taken a lead role in overseeing the revival of OCHS, which is one of Florence’s most successful nonprofit organizations. Hannigan welcomed members with his upbeat personality, which established a positive tone as he opened with a progress update for the shelter.
“On April 18, we met with the ODJ at the Florence Events Center and representatives gave us three things that they wanted us to do immediately. The first thing the Justice Department wanted was for us to repeal the current set of bylaws. Those bylaws were invalid and needed to formally be repealed,” Hannigan said. “The second thing the ODJ wanted us to do was to bring in another set of bylaws that brought members back into the organization and gave them voting rights.
“With the help of several people and other members of the board, we looked through bylaws and we came up with the bylaws from 2006 and we then ratified the 2006 bylaws.”
The third thing that Hannigan said the ODJ strongly suggested was a change in the policy that permitted general public attendance at OCHS board meetings.
“The ODJ said it was one of the only boards of a nonprofit that was open to the public and the reason was expediency. As long as the board was communicating with the members of the organization, the board meeting should be private,” Hannigan said.
Hannigan also spoke about meeting his new board members and beginning the process of developing a working relationship.
“It was a unique experience, to say the least, when we first met each other. It was a very interesting meeting as few of us knew anything about anyone else elected, so we all came in not knowing each other personally,” he said.
The new acquaintances met daily after first being confirmed and installed by representatives of the ODJ.
The board members had to familiarize themselves with the different elements of OCHS and identify the most pressing needs in order to move forward with a plan.
Leadership for the animal shelter and the thrift stores was the first order of business for the new board, so the board hired Interim Executive Director Barbara Butzer as one of the its first official acts.
Butzer reported that she has hired a manager for the thrift store and has expanded the placement ad for the position of permanent executive director to a national search.
One of the most anticipated reports was delivered by Treasurer Jerry Hatcher, whose report detailed the organization’s financial situation. One highlight was the recent large bequethment from the Sutton estate.
The takeaway from Hatcher’s report was that the OCHS has plenty of money at this time and should begin the process of securing the financial future of the organization.
Hannigan addressed this by announcing the formation of a committee that would focus on making sound financial decisions on the behalf of OCHS.
“I’ve asked City Manager Erin Reynolds, who is a CPA, and Mayor Joe Henry to join this committee and we will be looking into how to best invest this money for the short term and for the long term,” Hannigan said.
Directors-at-Large Bonnie Compton and Judy Roth gave updates on the welfare of the animals at the shelter, and Director Dolly Broch discussed a new photo program that should dramatically improve the images of adoptable pets on line.
Another important area of concern for OCHS volunteers and staff was the issue of safe handling of long-term canine residents of the shelter. To answer these concerns, OCHS has hired professional trainers to improve the techniques used by volunteers and staff to walk and display animals.
The directors also agreed to quickly implement all of the remaining suggestions made by the ODJ in the wake of its inquiry and the resulting analysis of the needs of the OCHS.
Some OCHS members may have felt an element of apprehension prior to the meeting — based on the chaotic nature of past board meetings, where exchanges between board members, organization members and unaffiliated members of the public sometimes turned into shouting matches and threats. These ultimately required the presence of Florence police officers to maintain order.
There was no police presence at Wednesday’s meeting, with OCHS’ current directors expressing a desire to be transparent and responsive to member concerns.
Lane Community College Florence Dean Russ Pierson was on hand as Parliamentarian to assure proper parliamentary procedure was followed. He moderated a short and civil public question section of the meeting, during which only a few questions were asked.
Hannigan reinforced the more inclusive approach the current board is taking by talking about unanswered questions the public may have.
“Because we have only been here for two months, we will get your name and then we will answer every one of those questions when we research the answer, so we can give you a confident reply,” he said.
The OCHS Board of Directors also expressed a need for volunteers at the shelter and the OCHS Thrift Store on Bay Street.
For more information on OCHS, call 541-997-4277 or visit www.oregoncoasthumanesociety.org.