PITTSBURG — The SEK Humane Society Board of Directors has met allegations from former executive director Kelci Cooper with allegations of its own.
In a statement Monday, Board President Mary Kay Caldwell said Cooper was given the opportunity to resign — or be terminated — following a unanimous vote by the board of directors. Cooper resigned from her post at the SEK Humane Society last week, citing a hostile work environment and other issues as her reasons for leaving.
Caldwell said Cooper’s allegations had no validity, and Monday, doubled-down by saying Cooper was asked to leave by the board for being financially irresponsible and insubordinate.
“Ms. Kelci Cooper was asked to resign or be terminated by a unanimous vote of a
12-member board as this individual has been financially irresponsible and
Insubordinate,” the statement read. “The accusations are all invalid and were never brought before the board.”
She went on to say that staff and animals are in a safe environment, and that the humane society has passed all state inspections. She encouraged visitors to the facility.
Cooper said the allegations are untrue and disheartening, but she knows the community is behind her.
“I have worked hard in my professional and personal life to be a part of making our community better, and I believe you’ve seen a reflection of that in many things, including SEK Humane Society over the last two years of my employment,” Cooper said. “It is disheartening to hear such strong, untrue allegations, although I know my community stands behind me, and we will be wishing the SEK Humane Society the best at this time.”
Cooper also said the board never asked her to resign.
“If they planned to give me that ultimatum, I must have presented my letter and left the meeting before they were able to,” Cooper said via text message Monday.
Five SEK Humane Society employees left the shelter earlier this year, alleging that leadership had been deaf to their concerns. SEK Humane Society Animal Caretakers Valerie Weilert and Logan Rink and SEK Humane Society Animal Welfare Director Catherine Geiger and two other employees left the shelter in July, they say, because of a lack leadership and a dearth of policies concerning the safety and welfare of the animals, staff and community.
The employees said at the time that they left because they felt their concerns were not being heard or acted upon by leadership at the humane society. Cooper said turnover across all levels at the SEK Humane Society illustrates an ongoing issue.
“It is no secret to our community that SEK Humane Society has had ongoing issues,” Cooper said. “The turnover of not just staff, but board members, over the years speaks volumes about the way the organization is led.”
She added that she wished she could have been the necessary change for the shelter.
“The amount of support I received from friends, community and total strangers to make SEK Humane Society a better place is greatly appreciated,” she said. “It is with deep regret that I couldn’t be the change needed, although it was not without extreme effort.”
Cooper said it must be difficult for an organization to lose its staff, the majority of its board and its director within months of each other, and that she hopes a much needed change will come for the future of the animals and staff.
In her statement, Caldwell highlighted the accomplishments of the humane society, also noting that the organization must be fiscally responsible.
“As a non-profit, the humane society has to be fiscally responsible,” the statement read. “Because we have been fiscally responsible for the past 43 years we have been able to have one of the most successful humane societies in the area; have operated a progressive spay/neuter program, Pawprints on the Heartland, that has performed over 80,000 surgeries; operated the Doggie Bag, a resale shop for 30 years, one of the oldest downtown businesses; have an endowment fund, and are just getting ready to open a new 10-run dog building that is climate controlled — all without any government funding.
“This has happened because of a caring community some great board members and volunteers, and a supportive media throughout the years,” Caldwell said in the statement.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.