In a major shakeup at the Payson Humane Society, manager Diane Fitzpatrick, board president Pat Boettcher and three other board members have resigned.
The dispute that led to the resignations arose over charges leveled by four paid employees against Fitzpatrick, accusing her of not following established procedures for animal isolation and of not keeping good immunization and other records. Fitzpatrick denied the allegations, but opted to resign rather than face an evidentiary hearing the board scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 23.
Instead, the board met to consider Fitzpatrick's replacement, and when Boettcher backed Fitzpatrick, an argument ensued. Thursday, Boettcher decided to resign, and three other members of the seven-person board -- Mark Kaplan, Stephen Stewart and Russ Jackson -- also resigned.
"There were some volunteers and people from the auxiliary saying there were some things that were not done properly, like making sure animals brought in were put in isolation 100 percent of the time, that their shots were double checked," new board president Larry Stubbs said.
Stubbs was elected president at an emergency session of the board following the board resignations. Also appointed to the board were volunteers Cathe Stander and Barbara Brenke, joining existing board members Lisa Boyle and Diane Dalton.
Stander said that she and Brenke had observed some of the procedural violations.
"As volunteers, we're kind of like the fly on the wall," she said. "Nobody really notices that we're there, but we're observing everything. We're hearing things. We're watching things. Because we've been doing this so long, that's where we got the concerns from."
The new board hopes to fill the two remaining vacancies with individuals who will bring more professional expertise to the society.
"We would like the veterinarians to be involved," Boyle said. "We've talked about having them rotate on six-month shifts, and instead of a regular lay person being our treasurer, we're going to try and find an accountant or CPA from the community to be on the board so we'll have a real money person as our money person."
Boettcher, who maintains Fitzpatrick's innocence, put a positive spin on the developments.
"It's just better (that I resign)," Boettcher said. "The humane society is a fabulous organization and the cause is nothing but the best."
Boettcher, who is leaving for Europe later this week to visit her son, also cited personal reasons for her resignation.
"I need some more time for my physical health," she said. "I need some more time to give my husband."
The humane society has undergone similar upheavals in the past. Boettcher has her theory as to why.
"You have lots of people who aren't working full time, and they want to do good for the animals," she said.
"Sometimes you just get some personality things, and there's always this thing that some people want power."
Boettcher, Stubbs and Boyle all said they hoped the cause will take precedence over the bickering.
Stubbs acknowledged Boettcher's desire to spend more time with her family.
"It wasn't fair to Pat," he said. "The people who are stepping up can put a lot more effort into it."
"Conflicts occur," Boyle said, "but it's vitally important to keep the doors open. We don't want mudslinging in public because it's the animals that get hurt."
Assistant manager Kim Garza-Myers has been named interim manager and will be given the chance to earn the job on a permanent basis.
Fitzpatrick did not return phone calls.
Boettcher, who has been involved with the shelter for six years, said she is especially proud of two accomplishments:
- "Working with Paws in the Park so both organizations began working together. It wasn't that way before, and it had to be."
- "Getting a better business arrangement with the town and county. Before we weren't really accepted as a business."
Boettcher also said she believed that the shelter will survive the latest upheaval.
"I am an optimist," she said. "I do believe good will come forward.
"There are some good people who will pull it together."