Partners for Pets to re-open no-kill animal shelter in Jackson County | Local

DEBORAH BUCKHALTER

In a Tuesday meeting that filled the room to overflowing, the Partners for Pets board of directors made some key decisions regarding its no-kill animal shelter in Marianna.

The board voted to re-open the shelter within 30 days, remove the existing president and vice president from those roles and from the board itself, demand that the newly ousted vice president turn over financial records she’s been responsible for since becoming the volunteer bookkeeper, and have a “forensic” audit of financial records done.

The board members present Tuesday also appointed three new members to the body and gave some of them special jobs. The three new members are Paula Penello, Judy Stanton and Melissa Sims. Penello was appointed bookkeeper and Stanton as treasurer, the two financial positions meant to ensure a check-and-balance the board agreed should be in place.

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Those actions were taken in the absence of the president, Ken Campbell, and the vice president, Judy Peterson. Both had skipped the meeting, citing health concerns when they let other board members know they wouldn’t be there.

The board also discussed plans to have new individuals from the body authorized for access to the organization’s bank account and/or other financial instruments opened on the board’s behalf. There’s a credit card established by Peterson that is associated with the organization and the board indicated more research into its origins and conditions will be conducted.

The vote to remove Campbell and Peterson from their positions was an irony, reminiscent of something that happened in the previous meeting, in which the vote was taken to close the shelter.

Campbell and Peterson advocated for the closure of the shelter in the just-previous meeting of the board, with that action successful on a split vote. At that previous session, Peterson and Campbell also advocated for the removal of two different members of the board that had not been attending as often. That motion had been successful as well. Later in that previous session, with those members removed from the board, the number of board members present was enough to meet the quorum necessary to take a vote on the shelter’s closure.

A barrage of community protest followed that decision.

Some people sat on the floor Tuesday after all the chairs in the meeting room were filled. If anyone was opposed to actions taken that night, they didn’t say so, but they offered many suggestions: the need for a building committee, a concerted fundraising plan, and more public notice about when board meetings are held, were some of the comments, for instance.

Many at this week’s meeting also signed up to become members of Partners for Pets on the spot, about a dozen paying their $25 membership fee and many vowing to volunteer for duty at the shelter once it reopens. There was a sign-up sheet for that, too. That re-opening is expected to occur well within a month, and in the vote to reopen the existing shelter now, the board also committed to an effort to get the new shelter open in 90 days or less.

Many at the meeting were just learning that the Jackson County School Board had some time ago donated two used portable buildings to Partners. The organization had also bought a used one and two new ones. All five have been placed at the site for the new shelter off Panhandle Road, but they’re not yet ready for occupancy.

The existing shelter has many physical problems, one of the reasons cited for its recent closure. Those advocating for that action also said they felt putting more money into keeping it open was a bad fiscal move as closing could keep more money available for the new shelter and its needs.

Several people opposing the closure pointed out that the action has already left many more strays wandering the streets or landing in an out-of-county facility without a no-kill policy.

Carol Johnson, who was the board secretary until Tuesday’s action thrust her into the position of acting-president as per the board’s bylaws, said Wednesday that the old shelter is usable for the short term while those structures off Panhandle are being readied and while infrastructure for them is put in place.

She said the old shelter will be used for as short a time as possible. A decision on when to resume intake of animals was not made Tuesday, but the question was expected to be taken up as soon as possible.

Johnson wasn’t the only one whose position on the board changed that night. Board member Mickey Busby had to shift into the secretary’s position as the result of Johnson having to take on the presidency.

The treasurer’s spot, taken over by Stanton Tuesday, was vacated recently. The individual who was serving resigned, saying current turmoil made it unwise for her to continue at this time.

Some of the board members present Tuesday said they were blindsided by the move to close the shelter and expressed some regrets over the turmoil and lack of a more smooth-running operation in recent times.

Board members also praised the shelter’s former manager, Jayme Dill, saying she was dedicated to the animals and not to blame for any of the upheaval the organization has been experiencing. Losing her in the closure was a tremendous negative, they said, and many in the audience Tuesday agreed.

She’d spearheaded a fundraiser that raised thousands of dollars meant to pay veterinary bills for animals needing extra care, held to the overall board’s mandatory spay and neuter policy even though she came under pressure to avoid that expense, and in many other ways been an exemplary Partners representative, board members said.

They’re hoping to get her back, but Dill said Tuesday she wasn’t sure whether she could set aside all the hurt the closure and her resulting dismissal caused.

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