WEST OCEAN CITY — Amid hints of coercion, long-time Worcester County Humane Society Director Kenille Davies last weekend announced she was stepping down after 37 years on the job at the West Ocean City facility during an impassioned speech at an annual fundraising dinner.
Davies announced last Friday at the dinner at Adolfo’s she was stepping down as director of the Worcester County Humane Society but made it clear it was a not a voluntary decision. According to Davies, two Board of Directors members and their attorney are forcing her out and replacing her with an unnamed individual at a salary of $50,000.
Several sources close to the situation maintained this week an internal investigation into the shelter’s finances revealed numerous concerns and serious questions, and, as a result, Davies has reportedly been offered a two-year severance package to retire at the end of the month. No specific allegations of any wrongdoing by the long-time director have been made public. The humane society’s Board of Directors declined to comment on the situation this week, and attorneys have reportedly been hired by Davies as well as board members.
Davies told those assembled for the annual fundraising dinner that she is essentially being forced to step down by the board.
“This is what happens when you have a bunch of a certain kind of people who want you out and they can afford to pay you to get out,” Davies told those assembled for the fundraising dinner. “I have been forced to leave as of Nov. 30 because I don’t have the money to get a lawyer involved.”
During the dinner, Davies did not go into the circumstances surrounding her decision, but hinted it was not of her own volition.
“When you get a seven-page letter of slander from two people and a lawyer from the other side of the bridge and the last line of the paragraph reads ‘when you leave the shelter, please don’t harm the animals,’ that hurts me more than anything because I can’t imagine myself ever harming an animal,” she said. “That’s the kind of commotion I’ve gotten from these people and I hope the public here can help in some way, because I feel sorry if that shelter is going to be run like that. It’s just awful. I can’t describe it in any other way than that because I did it for the love of the animals. I didn’t do it for money or prestige.”
Before Davies spoke at the dinner, Hal Adkins, her son-in-law and public works director for Ocean City, described her abrupt decision to resign as coming under duress.
“Unfortunately, Kenille has been put in a position where she has to legally defend herself with her own money and she’s not in a position to do that, so she is choosing to resign on Nov. 30,” he said. “They may have won the battle, but I assure you with the friendship that is here this evening and the support for Kenille, they may well lose the war.”
While the board declined to comment on the situation this week, two long-time Humane Society members shed light on some of the issues surrounding Davies’ resignation. Silvia and Bob Winegard have been active supporters of the local shelter as well as other no-kill shelters and are privy to the board’s position on the issue. The Winegards released their own statement late Thursday and referenced remarks made by Adkins during last Friday’s fundraising dinner.
“It is unfortunate that the business of the humane society has been characterized by Hal Adkins, Ms. Davies son-in-law and the director of Public Works for Ocean City, in the manner that it was in last week’s article,” the statement reads, referring to an article released online earlier this week by The Dispatch.
The Winegards’ statement outlines the process by which Davies’ resignation was broached and ultimately agreed upon.
“In October, Ms. Davies, represented by her counsel, William Scott, Esq., an attorney from Fenwick Island, Del., submitted her resignation to the Board of Directors of the society after several weeks of negotiation,” the statement reads. “Her resignation was voted upon and accepted by the board of directors, to be effective Nov. 30, 2013. The Board of directors was represented by its then-Attorney, Ocean City lawyer Joseph Moore during the negotiations regarding Ms. Davies resignation. Ms. Davies submitted her resignation amid concerns about the financial stability and lack of managerial control of the society.”
While the statement does not include any allegations of malfeasance, it suggests a long pattern of mismanagement and lack of accountability.
“The well-being of the animals at the Worcester County Humane Society should be and is the paramount concern of the WCHS,” the statement reads. “Several board members tried for months to exercise their fiduciary right within the organization. They viewed the financial and managerial questioning not only their right but also their fiduciary responsibility. The total years these Ocean City board members have voluntarily serviced the board and cared for the animals total 50 years combined. They were not going to stand by and watch the financial collapse of the shelter that provides such a valuable service to the community and cares for the animals that are dear to their hearts. They looked forward to the difficult work ahead of getting their financial house in order as well as other necessary management improvements including the hiring of a new director.”
The Winegards statement characterizes the decision to accept Davies’ resignation as a move in a new direction. Davies, reached this week, said she preferred to withhold future comments until after Nov. 30.
“The continuing effort cannot succeed at a no-kill shelter without proper management and appropriate institutional controls,” the Winegards’ statement reads “It is our hope that the mission of the WCHS, to continue to operate the WCHS shelter as a no-kill shelter, is not derailed by the inaccurate and imprudent comments of the uninformed who appear to be placing themselves before the mission of the society. Our primary interest has always been that the shelter operate for many years to come, and we hope that the community lends its support to do what is right for animals.
For his part, attorney Joe Moore said he represented the Humane Society during deliberations over Davies’ resignation and exit plan. Moore said he has represented the Humane Society since its founding in 1977 and represented the board during the process of resolving all issues related to Davies’ resignation. He said that was his last official duty before he resigned as the board’s attorney.
“When I believed the matter had been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved on Oct. 14, I sent a letter tendering my own resignation as the board’s attorney,” he said. “My decision to resign as the board’s attorney at that point after all these years was based on what I thought was an agreed-upon resolution to the satisfaction of all parties involved.”
Meanwhile, news of Davies’ pending resignation amid allegations she is being forced out after 37 years has resulted in an outpouring of public support for the humane society’s director throughout the community, including a Friends for Kenille Davies group with a Facebook page that included over 500 supporters by mid-week.
In a letter to the editor this week, the Friends of Kenille Davies group wrote, “We are fortunate enough to have one of the few real George Baileys right here in Ocean City,” the letter reads. “As you may have heard, after 37 years of running the local no-kill animal shelter, Kenille Davies will no longer be a part of the storied history she created and nurtured- the Worcester County Humane Society. Like George, Kenille has dedicated her life to helping others, never pausing to reflect on how many lives she has touched. What a caring, giving and selfless person. What a wonderful life.”