A challenge to the Humane Society 

Move to Act demands financial disclosure

Move to Act demands financial disclosure

Move to Act is a new animal welfare organization with a mission to improve the Humane Society of Indianapolis. Husband and wife Warren and Karen Patitz, two of the founders, each have about 25 years experience working in the local animal welfare world. Karen spent eight years at the HSI as an adoption counselor and kennel manager. Warren, an HSI volunteer for 18 years, started the HSI’s dog training program in the 1980s, and taught dog training for 11 years there. Thirteen other folks with similar animal welfare backgrounds are involved with Move to Act.
-Martha Boden, executive director of the Humane Society of Indianapolis, confirms that finances could force the HSI to close by spring of 2005.-

“What Move to Act wants to do is renew trust that the community and the donors have had in the agency,” Warren stated. “We aren’t trying to attack it.” “The HSI should be like the mother ship,” he says. “[But] they are at a state of inertia.”

Move to Act “is providing the Indianapolis audience with information that is publicly available anyway so that they can make their own decisions” about the HSI, he says. “One of the beautiful things is that we aren’t making allegations.”

Move to Act has reviewed the public tax records of the Humane Society, IRS Form 990s from 2000 to 2002, and has questions and concerns about possible mismanagement of funds. They believe this mismanagement will force the HSI to close by spring of 2005.

In an interview with NUVO, Martha Boden, executive director of the Humane Society of Indianapolis, confirmed that the HSI could close by spring of 2005 due to finances. But Move to Act doesn’t believe that the Humane Society of Indianapolis has to close.

Based on their review of the tax documents, Move to Act thinks that the HSI can save itself by having some accountability for lost funds. Move to Act seeks complete financial disclosure and detailed account of losses by the HSI since 2000. They aren’t convinced that losses have been due to the stock market, as HSI states.

“I think I would like to sit down and talk with them [Move to Act], understand what their questions are and try to see if we can answer them,” the Humane Society’s Boden says. “I can only speak for the time that I have been here and that’s since October 2002.”

Move to Act wants to know why the HSI has never publicly documented how it sustained what Move to Act says is over $8 million in asset losses from 2000-2003, taking HSI from one of the most financially sound non-profits to potential financial ruin.

Warren Patitz and other members of Move to Act are publicly asking questions of the HSI, including:

• Was financial loss due to the stock market or poor portfolio management?

• Can the HSI verify that former Executive Director Marsha Spring actually repaid HSI funds she used for personal use?

“If we spend a whole lot of time looking at that [past financial decisions], it’s going to take us away from the very dire situation that we’re in right now,” Boden replies. “We’ve got to figure out how to move forward. There are a whole lot of different people here and there’s a whole bunch of different stuff going on.”

Move to Act also doesn’t like how the HSI mission statement has dwindled to eliminate education and advocacy for animals. The HSI’s mission is to “Provide shelter and comfort to animals in need on the path to loving lifetime homes.”

“The board reduced the mission down to what it is that we’re really doing right now,” Boden says. “So, long term, absolutely, the goal would be to look at where do we want to expand in the name of helping animals and helping the community and then broadening the mission. "

“I would love to do that sort of stuff again,” Boden says of the broader goals. “But those efforts were thwarted with the budget cuts of last April. We’re doing outreach activities as we can with a much smaller staff. We are going to schools when we get invited. That is something we would very much like to reactivate if we can get past this financial crisis.”

Move to Act believes the public should know all the financial facts about HSI before they mail another check, so the donors can be confident that their donations aren’t being recklessly spent. They also want the HSI board of directors to acknowledge poor governance in the past and be accountable for both finances and behavior. Specifically, Move to Act would like those HSI board members present on the board during the alleged multi-million dollar asset loss to be excused from the board and replaced with people chosen from the community with approval by Move to Act. T

o further their campaign, Move to Act is launching its Web site, www.movetoact.org. For more information, Move to Act can be contacted at info@movetoact.org.

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