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Council removes HSCC funding

By Katharine Calabro - kcalabro@ftimes.com

The Frankfort City Council agreed to move the $20,000 budgeted for the Humane Society of Clinton County to the council’s not-for-profit section for 2019.

During the City Council’s regular meeting on Monday night, over 30 residents of Frankfort gathered in the Council Chambers to listen to the council’s decision on funding for the Humane Society’s Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) Program.

Over the past month, the public has questioned the HSCC’s use of taxpayer monies and some have even gone as far as saying funds are still unaccounted for.

While there has been an outcry from the public asking the City and County for the HSCC to undergo an audit, Frankfort resident Stephanie Crum has been doing her own personal audit on the matter.

Crum went through the overview of what has happened this far, including the firing of Jim Tate, the bylaws being posted via Facebook and even a leaked email that has surfaced over the course of the past couple of weeks.

The speech Crum made during Monday’s meeting went into detailed issues on why the current board is not functioning properly. She also made claims on how the board hasn’t been transparent.

According to Crum, at the city council meeting following Tate’s termination, the Board of Directors President Nancy Elsea and former Interim Director Ben Pfeffer spoke about the cost of the TNR program. Crum said the first issue was the bylaws state that paid employees are not eligible to serve on the board and the president is the primary spokesperson, unless delegated otherwise.

In regards to the costs and expenses of the TNR program, Crum said this is the HSCC treasurer’s responsibility. She said the bylaws state the treasurer is supposed to keep books which show records of receipts and expenditures.

“So why did the board not have the information on the TNR?” Crum asked, addressing the council. “It should be in the treasurer’s books.”

Shortly after this particular meeting in late August, the Mayor posted the bylaws on Facebook to keep his promise to the public with the goal of transparency. The bylaws were deleted soon after being posted because the HSCC threatened the city with a lawsuit.

Crum said this issue pertains to the matter of the leaked email dated Aug. 30. She said the email stated the importance of posting the bylaws on the HSCC’s Facebook page as soon as the board had a total of 10 people.

“I found that interesting for a couple of reasons: I know the bylaws the mayor had posted were the same ones the HSCC board had recently passed out to their board members,” Crum said.

When the bylaws were given, she said it stated the board needed to consist of no fewer than ten and no more than 15 directors, hence the rush to gain two appointees. Crum said the bylaws were posted on the HSCC’s Facebook page on Sept. 18 and were different.

“They state, ‘the number of directors that shall constitute a whole board should be not less than six, more than 15’,” she said.

While Crum believes HSCC posted the correct ones, it wasn’t until Aug. 30 and before Sept.18 that the HSCC did not know the specifics of the bylaws, which she said is an issue itself.

“Now my point is we have a board that is not functioning properly, that is not being transparent, that doesn’t have a clue and will not admit they continue to make mistakes,” she said.

Perhaps the biggest claim of all is the confusion and lack of transparency being given to the public when it comes to the HSCC’s TNR expenses. Crum said at the last City Council meeting, the HSCC board reported only some of the TNR expenses backed with receipts.

Because of this, Crum said designated funds are unaccounted for. She said the 990 tax form from 2016 lists TNR expenses at $5,991.

“That year, the city council gave the HSCC $10,000 in designated funds,” Crum said.

Crum claimed the 990 tax form from 2017 lists TNR expenses as $2,340, and the city gave $20,000 in designated funds.

“Unaccounted funds of $21,669, plus whatever is decided for 2018,” she said. “Reimburse the city, HSCC, and lets hope an audit doesn’t show anything worse. You should not be given any more time to come up with numbers. Your treasurer should have those true records of those in the books.”

In regards to the additional $10,000 being held for the current budgeted year, Mayor Chris McBarnes said he would not approve any further claims of the Humane Society until a public meeting is held.

“I will not approve another claim until we sort out what I believe are past funds that should be due to the city with money being spent in the way the council did not intend for it to be spent,” he said.

McBarnes described the last month as rocky and said his main concern was to gain transparency. He said he will continue to seek concrete evidence in regards to where taxpayer money was spent by the HSCC.

Because the funds are to be used for a not-for-profit, the council decided to move it for other operations. This allows for any 501 (c) (3) to apply and seek out the additional monies.

After the meeting, Elsea spoke with The Times and said she understands the City’s concerns. She said there are things the city and HSCC doesn’t agree with and, although both parties put in efforts, an agreement couldn’t be met.

Elsea said currently the HSCC is busy with adoptions, intakes and more which is what she says needs to be the focus.

“Someday we might decide to work with the City again on the TNR program, but we’re going to have to look at it pretty hard,” she said.