Humane Society Breaks the Mold

The Molokai Humane Society (MoHS) has experienced an overhaul this year. The 30-year-old nonprofit has lofty goals of securing a full-time veterinarian, financial stability and a piece of land to call its own.

“Our goal is consistency – consistent services and prices,” said new Executive Director (ED) Jenn Whitted.

With new paid staff, a change in board of directors and more funding this year than the nonprofit has ever worked with, MoHS board members are optimistic about the future.

Other objectives are to educate the community and purchase a plot of land for a shelter, clinic and office, Whitted said. 

Yet some community members question the organization’s future. Keri Zacher said she feels there is a disconnect between the people involved with the organization’s everyday activities and the board’s planning process.

“The long range goal may be for a shelter, but what we have right now is the clinic,” Zacher said. “I’ve attended all public meetings, sent emails, talked with board members, but I am at a loss.” 

Former board member Debbie Hill agrees, “I am very concerned about the current board’s seeming attempts to stay closed by maintaining tight control which ultimately minimizes community input and participation.”

“We’re taking what [previous boards] had already recognized as a need and didn’t have the resources for – we’re making it a reality because we’re able to get the funding,” said Whitted. “We knew what direction we should take by talking to old board members and looking at past minutes.”

Business Sense
Matthew Goodrich, MoHS board vice president since February and current acting president, said another goal for the organization this year is to “get on sound financial footing.” In the past, the Society had not collected consistent fees. In order to continue operation, they must collect these payments and raise additional funds, he said.

Each spay or neuter operation costs $100 in materials alone (not including a vet’s time). MoHS, however, only charges $20 to spay or neuter a cat and $30 for dogs. The rest of the costs, including paying visiting vets, are offset by MoHS, according to Whitted. 

“We wouldn’t have changed anything if we had come into an organization that was running well,” Goodrich said. “We were headed either into bankruptcy or [we would] turn into a volunteer organization.”

Even so, some disagree with the new financial regiment.

“MoHS is slowly being turned into a business,” said Dr. Hollis-Ann Stewart, a visiting-vet who formerly worked with MoHS. “Doctors used to run hospitals but now businesses run the hospitals. The same is applied here. Our agendas are different.”

This fiscal year’s projected budget of approximately $270,000 is an increase of over 600 percent from previous years’ funds of about $40,000. Goodrich said the donors have remained the same – Maui County, the Shields Animal Foundation and small private donations – but each has given more monetary gifts to MoHS this year – an increase Goodrich credits to more strictly following nonprofit practices..

MoHS also recently hired a bookkeeper, who, along with the treasurer and other board members, will help regulate and keep track of the organization’s funds and spending.

New Leadership
Earlier this year, board members saw the need for an executive director, according to Goodrich. Most nonprofit organizations operate with one, and it was a “no-brainer” from a financial standpoint, he said. The ED, he added, more than pays for the position with the money it’s expected to raise for the organization.

Additionally, Goodrich said the decision to create an ED position came in part when the Shields Animal Foundation, a substantial monetary contributor, told MoHS their funding was contingent on hiring an ED, sticking to a budget and maintaining consistency.

MoHS began receiving applications for the position before they even posted the job description. The board soon formed a three-person hiring subcommittee, which was chaired by Goodrich and did not include Whitted, who was board president at the time.

With pressure from funders to get the ball rolling, the position was posted in early July and remained open for only two weeks.

“We were on a timeline to get this done – we had to [do it] to get funding,” said Goodrich.

He said MoHS received six or seven applications, three of which were from Molokai residents. With an eye to hire someone who lives locally and who preferably had past experience with the organization, no applicant met their qualifications, he said.

“We asked Jenn if she would consider the job and she submitted an application,” and resigned from her position as board president, per nonprofit regulations, he added.

“If we got a good applicant, we would have hired someone else… but it’s not uncommon to hire those positions from within,” he said. 

Vet in the House
The search for veterinarians willing to visit Molokai is still ongoing until MoHS hires a full-time vet – “the number one thing we’re doing right now,” according to Goodrich.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea to have a full-time vet here, especially because it takes a special kind of person to want to relocate here – people-minded and animal-minded rather than political,” said Czella Donaldson, a Molokai animal owner.

While a number of vets have offered their services in the past, Goodrich said the most consistent visiting vet was Dr. Stewart, who has said she does not want to work with MoHS during this transitional period.

“I am dissatisfied with the current situation which has caused an uncomfortable working environment,” said Dr. Stewart. “I am not, nor have I ever been an employee of Molokai Humane Society.  I was a visiting vet that came to perform sterilization procedures and see appointments on Molokai because there was a need.”

“If she moved here and started private practice, we would be thrilled,” said Goodrich of Dr. Stewart.  “We would support her and send her clients.”

Dr. Stewart Morgan is currently on-island Aug. 9-19. He has been planning to visit Molokai for four months, said Goodrich. After Dr. Morgan leaves, no one is currently lined up to offer vet services – a gap between visiting vets MoHS has dealt with in the past.

However, the clinic will remain open, run by volunteers. Tessa Reich, formerly MoHS’s only paid employee and vet assistant, is no longer working with MoHS.

“I am still here for the pets and people of Molokai,” said Reich. “You may definitely call me if you have questions about your pets and need services.”

Reich said she will continue working independently with Dr. Stewart to serve the animals on Molokai. “I know people by their pets’ names.”

Community Involvement
A current challenge for MoHS board members and community members alike is interpreting the nonprofit’s by-laws, which Goodrich and Whitted said need clarification.

In early 2011, the board faced several vacancies. According to the MoHS by-laws, board members may “fill any vacancy of any officer or director for the remainder of the term vacated,” a statement Whitted said is vague. As a result, two new board members appointed last spring were never officially voted onto the board during the annual meeting held on June 20.

“No one had indicated interest in running for a position,” said Whitted, adding meeting attendees discussed continuation of the current board appointments but “we didn’t think we needed to technically vote.”

However, the issue has since caused some confusion in the community.

“The MoHS desperately needs the lift of new ideas and an attitude of transparency and openness,” said Hill, who had previously resigned from the board, because, as a part-time Molokai resident, she did not feel she had “true insight to draw conclusions or opinions.”

Public meetings have been changed from monthly to quarterly because “not enough people were coming and there wasn’t enough to talk about,” according to Goodrich.

The board of directors still meets monthly, with five members – the minimum needed, according to MoHS by-laws. With a maximum of seven seats, there are two positions available for interested community members. An application process has been established to ensure Molokai residency and an understanding of this volunteer position’s responsibilities. Applications are accepted year round, according to the board.

Along with a board of directors, MoHS has a membership of more than 100 people – a number that remains unclear because of poor past records, according to Goodrich. Members pay annual dues and can vote at the annual meeting at the end of the fiscal year.

MoHS board members said Molokai residents can make their voices heard and get involved in MoHS in many ways. The public can attend board and public meetings, become a MoHS volunteer or join the board.

“The easiest way for something you specifically want is to form a committee,” said Goodrich. A committee’s mission must be in keeping the MoHS mission statement, and include one board member.

MoHS by-laws, meeting minutes, board openings, and other information is available on their website, molokaihumanesociety.org. The organization’s Facebook page, “Molokai Humane Society” also provides updates. Whitted said MoHS is also looking for past records from the organization – records can be left at the clinic or emailed to molokaihumanesociety@gmail.com.

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13 Responses to “Humane Society Breaks the Mold”

  1. bella says:

    I have been hearing so many different thing’s regarding this “takeover” of the Humane Society on Molokai. Where were these people when there was no money? All of a sudden you have “concerned” people involved, changing thing’s for the “better”. Why are Tessa and Dr. Hollis and Dr. Dean not being called upon to share their knowledge with the Society? It seems now we are going backwards with new people running the show (now that there has been a huge cash influx) and all of a sudden we have NO VET on a regular basis? What’s up with that?
    The Community deserves to know what is going on and I for one would love to see Tessa and Dr. Stewart be available for our pets.

  2. Molokaiwahine says:

    In 2007 the Molokai Humane Society established the Spay and Neuter Clinic for the community. The Board of Directors is responsible to oversee the operation of the clinic for the community. Basically, this clinic was run by Tessa Reich (the only paid employee) the veterinarian assistance and the veterinarians. The veterinarians were coming from Oahu, Maui and the mainland to service our community. Along the way there has been issues paying the Veterinarian’s and Tessa:
    • We now have a new board since February 25 2011 which was never elected by the members. Since this has been pointed out to this board they have changed their meetings on their web to state they were appointed.
    • “The Annual Meeting of this Society shall be held in the last quarter of each fiscal year for the consideration of reports and to elect members of the Board of Directors and transact any other business as necessary. The time and place will be designated by the Board of Directors. Notice of the meeting shall be posted at least thirty (30) days in advance of the date set for such a meeting; “
    • At the past meetings the members have not been allowed to speak at the meetings.
    “The privilege of the floor shall be extended to any person entitled to vote at meetings of this Society, i.e. paid member.”
    • The Maui Council awarded the Molokai Humane Society $75,000 and a foundation matched this amount. According to the new budget only $50,000.00 is speared headed for the Spay and Neuter Program. Are these County monies ($25,000.00) be used for other needs, like paying for an Executive Director? Can tax dollars be used for other programs, when it has been allotted for a certain program?
    • According to this article, there are some financial issues? If there are financial issues in organization, if you look at the past board you had a President /Treasurer 2009, who also at one point was Secretary/Treasurer, could this be a problem? She still is the treasurer and now you have hired a bookkeeper?
    • Outreach to the members maybe lacking. And no membership list provided at the meeting. “Keeps a current roster of members.”
    “I joined several years ago. Still have my card signed by Viola Wickman. Never received a newsletter or notice that I know of. I would be happy to update my membership but it never crossed my mind. I am also a member of the Maui County Humane Society and regularly receive the newsletter and notices. I have kept up my membership over the years because they remind me when I due.”

    Maybe the community (tax payers) and Maui County Council should ask for an Annual report from the Molokai Humane Society to see where all their monies are going to run this clinic? This clinic was set up for the Spay and Neuter program for our community with tax payer’s monies. The veterinarians bring their own drugs, supplies and pay their own airfare and more. The Molokai Humane Society also has a great lease with DHHL. The clinic has only one paid employee. Does the clinic have a policy and procedure manual for operations of the clinic?
    The Molokai Humane Society has wanted a shelter for years; if you had a strong education Spay and Neuter program you would not need a shelter? It has been mentioned at the meetings the foundation would like a shelter, if the foundation has the money to buy the land, build a shelter and contract Molokai Humane Society or Maui Humane Society to run the shelter?

    We all know the Molokai’s economic base is not very strong in tax revenue. And the economic climate is not the best right now in Molokai.

    The bottom line is this new Board is not listening to the members and following the By-Laws and the members and volunteers have their concerns about the clinic.

    I hope the Board will rethink how they are communicating to the members and the public, because the community is being affected by these issues at hand.

    The Da Clinic is the Boards biggest responsibility and the handling of the past events with Tessa and the Veterinarians, members are very PILAU!

  3. Molokaiwahine says:

    “No one had indicated interest in running for a position,” said Whitted, adding meeting attendees discussed continuation of the current board appointments but “we didn’t think we needed to technically vote.”

    The new secretary on MoHS was NOT on the board on May 16, 2011 meeting. She applied for a Director position for the so called “June elections”. When the June meeting was held on June 20, 2011 she was on the Board.

    Two members did have interest in running for the Board, Carol and Keri.

    Keri has been a volunteer 4 years at the clinic working with the Veterinarians and Tessa. So Carol gets on the board with no election and Keri who has volunteered for 4 years is told there are no opennings?
    So what is that all about?

    How many of the Board members have actually volunteered at the CLINIC? This does not make sense??? Can the board please explain itself and it’s decision?

  4. IlioAloha says:

    I truly wish that the public could know all the details of the events that have transpired. I do know that, by law, not all employee information can be made public. I was also told that there is a confidentiality contract signed by the Board regarding some of the things that have transpired. I just wish that everyone knew the WHOLE story, not just rumor and innuendo. I am not privy to the details, but I have personally observed, as a customer, that in the past several illegal transactions occurred which could have single handedly done several things:

    1) shut down the entire clinic indefinitely

    2) jeopardized professional veterinary licenses

    3) IRS infractions leading to major fines

    4) citations for practicing veterinary medicine and dispensing drugs without a license to do so

    …and the list could go on.

    It appears to me, from the outside looking in, that the current Board and administration are trying to establish and maintain legal and professional boundaries. They seem to have become made aware of how important record keeping needs to be. Not just patient records, but exchange of money records, hence a paid book keeper. Paid employees are held to a different standard than a volunteer. They are legally held accountable to their job description. Volunteers are not.

    Why is it that, until more recently, my pet didn’t even have a record at the clinic even though it had been there many, many times? My animal has been going to the clinic for over 3 years. Yet, until recently there wasn’t even any record of my visits or of the cash money that I paid for the services rendered. Why? I NEVER questioned where that money went…now I ask, should I have? Because, clearly with all these financially problems it was not going back to the Molokai Humane Society. It seems to me that on closer inspection the Board is trying to clean up a huge mess that started long before they were even involved. Still, I pray for a peaceful resolution, and for a vet to come save our animals.

  5. mauival1 says:

    As a volunteer I feel that Tessa and some of the visiting Veterinarians have been a target by Executive Director/past President Jenn Whitted.Tessa never wrote the checks or managed the money, she was the clinic manager and assistant to the Vets. So who was overseeing her at work?Maybe the previous Boards should be asked questions like membership communication?Who was managing the funds and budgeting those funds appropriately?Did the new Board ever meet with Tessa and the Vets after work to discuss matters of concern, or did they just bully their way in? This whole issue is a mess and the community and the animals are suffering

  6. Molokaiwahine says:

    Questions for Molokai Humane Society:
    1. A public meeting is warranted as tax payers we need questions answered?
    2. How can a Board create such a mess and not even be year old?
    3. How can a Board have a President/ Treasurer?
    4. Wow!Da President is the new Executive Director, how did that happen?
    5.Who has a Veterinarian assistant license and medical experience/background now that Tessa is gone to work in the clinic?
    6. If $40,000 is for ED, and $70,000 employee Veterinarian and then there is bookkeeper who works from home, not much left for the animals of Molokai for spay and neuter? County $75,000.00 + $75,000 from foundation?
    7. Ms.Jen Whitted said no one applied for the Board, Keri Zacker brought a application to the June 2011 meeting and was told there would not be election because they have enough Directors when they had advertised the election meeting? How Pono is that action? A lapse in memory?
    8. They do not advertise the meetings sufficietly and most of their meetings where held before at noon time and now at 5pm at Paddlers and members are not given enough time to speak because a band comes on at 6pm. MoHS meeting used to be at Mitchell Pauole at a deceit time so people who worked could come to the meetings after work,not at a BAR.WHY????
    9.Maybe they have a lack of members at the meetings because the treasurer for last 2-4 years never kept updated list???? Hard to be President/Treasurer?
    10. Why did the Board target Tessa, she did not manage the finances of this Humane Society?
    11.At the May 2011 meeting someone asked if there was updated membership list and the President said there was a updated membership list????
    12. Are Vets still coming weekly????

    I hope they have a community meeting soon, October is Annual meeting time and if the By-Laws are being changed then the Board has to send these changes to the members, 15 days before the meeting. Also, the Board needs to set up a nominating committee of members for elections. How many of these board members were elected by the members in the last year or so?????

  7. mauival1 says:

    It seems there needs to be an internal investigation by Maui County/ Danny Mateo immediately as to what events transpired that led to the exit of Tessa at the clinic. Because when she left , Dr. Holllis Stewart the Veterinarian coming faithfully every week from Oahu went with Tessa.They were great team that did SO much together for our Island’s animals and owners.What is the Humane Society without them ? CLOSED !!

  8. InsideObserver says:

    I can’t answer all of your questions, but I can answer this one: “How many of the Board members have actually volunteered at the CLINIC?”

    The answer is: ALL of them. I have seen them assist the veterinarian by holding animals, monitoring breathing, and passing supplies. They clean up poop, pee and vomit. They answer the phone, file paperwork, and even offer hugs to people who have lost an animal. They buy office supplies out of their own pockets and bring lunch when the veterinarian can’t get away. And they rebuilt the waiting area shelter when it blew down several months ago.

    I can’t speak to the board’s decisions, past or present. But they are there in the trenches as volunteers, and they don’t even put out a coffee can asking for gas money.

  9. Molokaiwahine says:

    It seems that the MoHS Board have lots of Executive meetings , but have no time for MONTHLY meetings with the MEMBERS……..
    JUST SHOWS THEY ARE NOT CONNECTED TO THIS COMMUNITY…OUTSIDERS…. not a Surprise by their behavior!

    Having a Executive meeting in September?

    Is it true the vet from mainland got hired? Where was the job application notice published? Did MoHS pay for his plane ticket?
    Wow $40,000 salary for E.D. who was the president,just going through the motions???
    PILAU

  10. Molokaiwahine says:

    To:Inside Observer
    The recent Board did not volunteer until they were on the Board or when they were going to be on the Board, that was the question. I am insider to the Humane Society for a very long time! And I can tell you this, if you are from Molokai and want to donate gas money for the generator, supplies and for Tessa that is the customers choice.Tessa worked 24/7 for the people of this island and their pets!

    I can tell you that you have not lived here on Molokai long enough to know how we locals operate. Do you know why the clinic is on Hawaiian Homestead LAND today.This board is made up of people who have moved to Molokai and do not have clue why the clinic was set up on HAWAIIAN HOMESTEAD PROPERTY.The Humane Society pays very little rent money for the monthly lease of Hawaiian Homes Land.

    I want to also say that if veterinarian wants to kokua a customer that is also their business. They bring their own supplies, drugs and more and it is their money and time!

    This Board does not want a meeting with the public because they can not face the mess they have created.

    The bottom line in the last for 4 years the Molokai Humane Society Board did not properly manage the clinic and they still have some of the same Boards members.
    . How do you expect to have a shelter when the Board can not even manage one building, one employee and the Veterinarians!!!!!?????
    AUWE!!!!

    When you are not PONO on Molokai it comes back !

  11. bella says:

    I am wondering what is the current status of the Molokai Humane Society. I have been noticing that the trailer has been empty of cars.
    It is so disappointing because we were just getting secure with vets coming over, good pet care from Tessa and the Drs who were coming to Molokai. Now it seems whenever I go up there it is EMPTY.
    What now Ms. Whitted and board? What is going on over there? Where do we go for our pet vaccinations and treatments? What happens now that we don’t have regular vet service to our puppies who need immunizations from Parvo etc.? Will we see more strays and unhealthy animals running around spreading disease?
    It seems that people are not earning their $40000.00. That is a lot of money for managing an empty shelter, eh?
    I think Molokai needs our vet services back, we need Tessa.
    I hope that Tessa and Dr. Hollis (S.) and the other vets that work with Tessa are able to find a space to operate a clinic.
    It is so sad that what was once a potential for a good thing has gone so downhill.
    I don’t know who the current board answers to, especially to account for their monies that they were awarded. Right now it seems that the money that was to be for the Humane Society and the animals and the animal care services are not being used properly and I hope the Powers that Be investigate.

  12. Simons Pet Shoppe says:

    To Bella….just to inform you along with anyone else who does not know, we always have vaccinations available at the pet shop. We also stock many homeopathic and natural remedies that may be able to help your pets in times of need. We sell wormers and flea and tick products. Stop in and see what we have to offer. We are trying very hard to accommodate the needs of Molokai’s people and pets and we hope we are succeeding. Call if you need any help or additional information…553-3419.

  13. bella says:

    Mahalo for the information! I appreciate your sharing that.
    I do hope that the Molokai Humane Society would be as considerate as you and share with the members and public the information of what is happening over at the trailer and with the reorganization.

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