Humane Society Combatants Find Common Ground

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Despite fears of a drawn-out dogfight, a meeting between the Payson Humane Society Board of Directors, and a five-member ad-hoc committee went off Wednesday night without a hitch.

"We expected a confrontational meeting, but instead it was a productive, constructive meeting to the satisfaction of both sides," said board member Jim Phinney.

"We were really able to open up a dialog and talked for a long time -- for about three hours," committee spokesperson Carol Lydec said.

The ad-hoc committee was formed out of a dissatisfaction with the Society's operation of the animal shelter, and the resignations in January of manager Cindy Bradford and the rest of the shelter staff. Although employees gave the board two weeks to find their replacements, board president Gloria Scott -- citing irreconcilable differences of opinions and philosophies -- asked the staff to turn in their keys at the end of that day.

Since then, Society members known as Pet Pals, would-be members and animal lovers in general have been up in arms and ready to do battle to bring the Bradfords back. At the initial Feb. 18 meeting of concerned shelter supporters, the five-member ad-hoc committee was appointed to draft a position statement that would, in part, suggest reinstating the original staff.

That final statement, which was presented to the board last week, carried a less antagonistic and more humble message along with a few suggestions for consideration.

"It became increasingly clear that we, like many others, had been passing judgment on others based not on fact, but on rumors and hearsay," the statement read. The committee conceded that, after inspecting the Society's bylaws, that the board "probably was acting within its legal prerogative when making several key, although unpopular decisions." The board further said that residents "would be hard pressed to find anyone on the board who did not have the best interest of the society at heart. Their pitching together to make sure the shelter continued to operate during the past few weeks bears evidence of their determination."

Lydec said she wasn't expecting the cooperative spirit she found on the board.

"They were very open to what we had to say, and listened to our concerns and our questions," she said. "We are not going to address the Bradford issue any longer, because we've determined that it's not appropriate for us to do so. It's a personnel matter, and one that is between the board and the Bradfords."

Though there's nothing more the ad-hoc committee can do for the former shelter staff, Lydec said there has been a positive outcome.

"While it was the Bradford issue that woke the town up, it did wake the town up," she said. "People are suddenly coming out of the woodwork and remembering, 'Hey, we have an animal shelter.'"

Phinney and new shelter manager Ann Van Gheem agreed, saying that they feel the public opinion may finally be improving toward the board and the shelter.

"We've had 59 adoptions from the shelter in 43 days," Van Gheem said. "That's almost double the adoptions last February. It's been wonderful."

Lydec said more details of the joint meeting will be revealed at the next Pet Pal meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. March 18. The location of the meeting has yet to be announced, because Lydec said she's hoping for a huge turnout.

"We want anyone who cares about animals to attend this meeting," she said. "What we have to do now is start building trust."

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