UPDATED: Humane society battles lawsuits, questions about leadership

The Humane Society Yukon itself may need to be rescued. Last week, the society issued a press release calling for an end to repeated attacks on the board of directors from former staff, board and society members and the public.

Jordi Mikeli-Jones, owner of Triple J’s Music Cafe, was the president of Humane Society Yukon from August 2010 to July 2011.

Before that, she was a board member for four years and has helped raise over $80,000 for the society.

Now, she can’t even enter the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter on Tlingit Street.

On Aug. 4, she received a letter via registered mail from the Humane Society Yukon board.

The letter, dated July 31, informed her she was banned from the society’s premises effective immediately, and that the RCMP would be called to remove her if she set foot on the property.

She hasn’t been to the shelter since October, Jones said. She is not a current member of the society.

The letter also said the society is considering filing criminal harassment charges against her.

The society is also accusing her of slander and defamation, Jones said.

The situation and allegations are absurd, Jones said.

She only received the letter because she has expressed concerns about some of the society’s actions and how it is being run, she said.

Jones wasn’t the only one to receive unpleasant mail from the society.

Madeleine Girard, a previous board member, received a letter denying her renewal of membership.

She has also been banned from the shelter.

Her brother, Paul Girard, owner of Ovation Construction, was also banned from the society’s property.

Other society members have also received similar letters.

These letters are part of the society’s attempts to move in a positive direction, said president Shelley Cuthbert.

Negativity has created an unsafe environment for staff and animals, she said.

If this continues, the board may have to consider closing the shelter, she said.

But closing the shelter doors is an unlikely prospect, she added.

Neither she nor the board members have heard from the individuals they sent letters to, Cuthbert said.

The prospect of the shelter closing angers Mikeli-Jones. “Over my dead body will she shut down the shelter,” she said.

The Yukon government is investigating the society for potential breaches of the Society’s Act.

More details about the investigation are expected this week, Madeleine said.

Cuthbert is looking forward to the results of the investigation, she told the News on Monday. It will help the society improve operations, she said.

Concerns about the society’s activities and management are not new.

Last week, the society issued a press release calling for an end to repeated verbal attacks on the board of directors from former staff, board and society members, and the public.

The current board of directors has faced criticism since being formed in August 2011, the release said.

That board has also seen significant changes.

When it was formed, Marta Keller was president.

She stepped down in January.

Cuthbert became president and Keller then became a director.

Keller recently resigned that position, Cuthbert told the News on Monday.

The board will be announcing new directors soon, she added.

On Aug. 7, the society’s website still listed Keller as director.

There is one other director listed on the site.

Last week’s release lists actions taken by the current board to change the negative image of the shelter.

This includes fighting lawsuits filed against the society.

Ovation Construction is suing the society for breach of contract.

The company alleges it was not paid for work it had been contracted to do at the shelter, and did not receive a tax receipt for services donated to the society.

There were “minor deficiencies” in some of the work, Paul Girard said on Thursday night.

He was not notified about these issues or allowed to repair them, he said.

He would have been willing to repair them, he added.

The initial contract stipulates mediation in case of dispute over payment, said Paul.

But Cuthbert refused mediation, he added.

Paul has another lawsuit against Cuthbert.

She hasn’t paid for use of his personal cellphone, he alleges.

Madeleine is also suing the society.

She is seeking reimbursement for $1,643.71 worth of expenses she claims she incurred for the society.

The Girards both stressed they want to see the society continue and have no interest in hurting the organization.

“I have no interest in filing any sort of vexatious claims against the society,” Madeleine said Thursday evening. “All I am interested in is justice.”

Madeleine has concerns about the organization’s transparency.

Members have been denied access to membership lists and financial statements, she said.

Societies are required to keep a list of members at their registered office and let members view it at any reasonable time, the Societies Act says.

Madeleine has begun a petition for an emergency meeting for the purpose of removing the current board of directors, specifically Cuthbert, she said Friday.

Cuthbert had not heard of this petition, she said on Monday.

She wants the society to move in a positive direction.

Personal agendas have caused much of the conflict, she said.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at mgillmore@yukon-news.com

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