Shelter Director Says ‘I’m Not Retiring, I Am Being Forced Out’; Board Responds, ‘The Shelter Needs To Be Rescued’

1 HS-Kenille

WEST OCEAN CITY — With the clock ticking on the formal date of her resignation on Nov. 30, Worcester County Humane Society Director Kenille Davies this week shed more light on the events that led to her alleged forced departure after leading the facility for the last 37 years.

Two weeks ago, Davies announced at an annual fundraising dinner that she was stepping down as director of the Worcester County Humane Society after founding the organization in 1977 and serving as its director ever since. She made it clear she was being forced out by select members of the organization’s 11-member Board of Directors.

Up until Wednesday’s interview, Davies has provided little in the way of details of the events leading up to her retirement, preferring instead to wait until after it became official on Nov. 30. However, with information and allegations swirling in the court of public opinion, Davies told The Dispatch she was not resigning of her own volition, but rather was stepping down in an attempt to shield some members of the Board of Directors, many of whom have been long-time friends and volunteers at the shelter, from a protracted and expensive legal battle.

“They wanted me to stand up and say I was just retiring,” she said. “Well, I’m not retiring. I am being forced out. The reason I am being forced out is because I didn’t want to see all of the people involved hurt be threats of lawsuits and intimidation and court orders and losing money.”

While a majority of the board voted to accept Davies’ resignation, the long-time director said this week a handful of board members, maybe as few as three of the 11-member board, had orchestrated her forced resignation. While the lines of communication between Davies and her supporters and the some of the board members had started disintegrating as early as last spring, the issue came to a head with a meeting in July and a subsequent request for her resignation.

Davies said the effort to get her to step down after 37 years on the job was couched at first as a friendly attempt to get her to ease back and enjoy life and her family, but quickly turned to intimidation and aggression in the form of a threatening letter.

“On July 10, I was told, not asked, to come up front,” she said. “That’s how they were treating me by then, like I was told to go to the principal’s office.”

According to Davies, the conversation with one of the board members opened with a discussion about how long Davies had been with the Humane Society and if she was ready to take some time off, maybe step back and spend some time with her family.

“I looked at her and wondered why she was saying that,” said Davies. “She went on and on about it and I said if I want to do something, I’ll do it. I’m so used to working that it’s part of my life. She then said, ‘well, I’ll get to the point. I’d like you to resign.’ I was so shocked. I thought a second and then said I’m not resigning. She said ‘well then, I have a letter to give you and it’s going to be a hard read.’ I’ll never forget that.”

Davies said she took the sealed letter in a blank envelop and didn’t open it immediately. She told the board member she would take it home and read it later. She never asked who it was from or where it came from.

“I sat down and I didn’t know what I was going to look at or what was going to happen, but I read it and it was very disturbing,” she said. “There was not one nice thing in the seven pages. I didn’t know what to do. There was no heading on it and no signature, no letter head, nothing. I just assumed it came from those three board members.”

Davies said the letter outlined an alleged long pattern of mismanagement, hints of fiscal malfeasance and even itemized lists of incidents involving animals.

“The content was just malicious,” she said. “You did this, or you didn’t do that. It was full of petty stuff. There were charges of me being cruel to animals, which anyone who knows me knows I’m not. It said I wasn’t a good manager and that I just took the money and spent it really quick.”

Ironically, Davies said around the same time the Worcester County Humane Society was in the middle of a regularly planned audit and the organization’s financials appeared to be in order.

“We were in the middle of being audited and everything was going well,” she said. “The auditor said everything looked good. The only thing he said was we had to replace the money that was taken from the restricted fund.”

The restricted fund mentioned by the auditor was part of a trust dedicated to the Worcester County Humane Society by a private donor several years ago. The principal was restricted, but the endowment generated as much as $50,000 a year in interest when the economy was going strong. The interest revenue was used by the Humane Society for wide variety of operating funds from food and supplies to vet bills.

When the recession hit and the economy slowed, that source of income from the interest on the endowment dried up. The board then decided to use some of the CDs they had set up through the endowment to pay for bills and other operating costs for the shelter.

“We had put so much into the CDs and we took it out of the CDs and paid the vet bills and everything else that had to be paid,” she said. “We cleared our debt, which is what happened. They knew I had gone to get the CD out.”

Davies suggested the board members were well aware of the need to use some of the funds in the CDs to pay the shelter’s bills and used that as a catalyst for preparing her demise as director.

“I think it was a railroading,” she said. “I think they were after this for a while and I’m very saddened by it because I really thought they were friends.”

Davies said it was around that time that Silvia and Bob Winegard started to appear in the picture. The Winegards are Humane Society members who occasionally made contributions to the shelter. Davies said this week she believes the Winegards have a desire to take over the shelter and the three board members were doing their bidding.

She said the content of the letter and its sudden appearance without a letterhead or a signature suggested the Winegards were the origin of the document. Shortly after the letter was delivered, some of the board members seeking Davies’ resignation all attained the services of attorneys.

There was a five-hour meeting with the various parties during which it came to light that Bethesda attorney James Hammerschmidt, who represents the Winegards, was the author of the letter. Davies suggested the allegations spelled out in the letter authored by Hammerschmidt on behalf of the Winegards were unfounded because she had never met the attorney and barely knew the Winegards. Instead, she suggested the three board members who were seeking her resignation were behind the inflammatory document.

“When I found out who was behind the letter, I was just totally shocked,” she said. “At that meeting, I was told they wanted to pay for an employee to run the shelter, but only as long as I was out of the picture. I was not to be involved whatsoever. After 37 years with the Humane Society, they wanted to just wipe me out. I don’t know who that person is they want to replace me with, but I think it’s just a front.

For their part, the Weingards released a statement on the matter earlier this month.

“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.
“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.

While she didn’t release the entire letter, Davies this week read aloud one particularly intimidating section.

“In the interest of all of the shelter’s constituents, we hope the transition can be done smoothly and without the need for formal action or court intervention,” the letter reads. “In particular, we demand that you do not destroy or remove any shelter property including the animals, or retaliate against or attempt to intimidate any of the shelter volunteers, board of directors, employees or members or harm any of the animals. We request that you submit a resignation letter to the board within five days of the date of this letter.”

Davies said the shelter’s fiscal situation has always been transparent and there were no hints of any financial malfeasance. She also said the very board members who have led the effort to oust her were privy to all of the organization’s financial information.

“These people have been to my house on numerous occasions and they’ve helped file things and helped look at the bills,” she said. “Then they hand me this letter out of the clear blue sky. I don’t think I’ll ever get over this letter. I think they have tried so hard to destroy what I have done and taken away my whole life.”

Another allegation is that Davies ran the shelter autonomously without input from the board. The letter suggests there were never official board meetings held. While she acknowledges there were rarely board meetings officially called to order with minutes taken and Robert’s Rules followed, the board members frequently conducted informal meetings.

“The three other board members could have said let’s have a board meeting,” she said. “We always considered working together a board meeting. All of us worked together in the same building and if we had a problem, maybe there was a sick cat or a sick dog or something like that, we’d discuss it there. At least half the board was there all the time and we considered those discussions board meetings.”

Davies said this week she has concerns over what will become of the shelter she helped create and has developed and nurtured for the last 37 years.

“We have no idea what’s going on in there now or what’s going to happen when I’m not there after a couple of weeks,” she said. “The truth is, I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel comfortable about the animals in there. We are no-kill and it’s been that way since the beginning. It’s just a shame that strangers can walk in and take over. They really have no idea what goes on there day in and day out.”

She said what hurts the most, perhaps, is the apparent discounting of her efforts on behalf of the shelter for over three decades. She also defended the shelter’s current financial situation.

“I’m taking the blame and that’s fine, but I’m the one who loves those animals,” she said. “Whether they like that or not, that’s the only reason I was ever there. They act like I never did a single thing right or that we’re broke. Apparently I did something right. They’re not broke. I never failed to pay the bills and we never failed to keep on going. I hope they’re all real proud of themselves.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the board of directors on Thursday released their own formal statement on the situation. The statement appears to reflect the opinions of the three board members who have led the effort to remove Davies, including Kelly Austin, Sandra Mitchell and Beverly Sweitzer, although it is headed as a statement on behalf of the entire board.

“We do not believe that a public airing of any grievances or concerns regarding the departure of Ms. Davies will advance the needs of the shelter, nor serve Ms. Davies’ reputation,” the statement reads. “As has been noted in the media and other public forums, there were clear reasons based on objective evidence regarding the management of the shelter, particularly with respect to financial matters, that led to Ms. Davies’ resignation. The shelter needs to be rescued.”

The statement continues, “Of paramount importance is that the shelter be enabled to operate efficiently and in a fiscally-sound manner as we move forward,” the statement reads. “For this reason, we choose to refrain at this time from publically detailing the factors that precipitated Ms. Davies’ resignation. We would hope that after November 30, Ms. Davies discontinues carrying on a public diatribe about the many transgressions that led to her resignation. It only hurts the animals and the shelter she professes to love. The members of the shelter that advocated for the resignation respect and admire Ms. Davies’ many years of devotion and service, but for the good of the shelter, the animals and the community it serves, feel the time is right to turn the page with new management and a renewed focus on serving the animals and the community of Ocean City and Worcester County.”

 

18 comments on “Shelter Director Says ‘I’m Not Retiring, I Am Being Forced Out’; Board Responds, ‘The Shelter Needs To Be Rescued’

  1. What a SHAME! It sounds as if an independent audit is in order. Thank You Ms. Davies for your countless hours and caring. I hope the animals don’t suffer through this.

  2. AWFUL…these people should be ashamed of themselves. I wish NO harm on those animals, but they will NOT get my support after Nov 30th and I hope others follow suit. How can people be so heartless after 37 years of service to the shelter! THIRTY SEVEN YEARS!!!! If she was an evil, animal abusing, bad money management Director, she would have been gone 30 years ago. Give me a break. Someone wants her job…someone wants to be the top “dog”…wait until they see how difficult Kenille’s job is. Would love to be a fly on the wall the day she is gone. Praying for the animals…praying for Kenille…Thank you for all your hard work and dedication. This makes the term “thankless job” to a whole new level! Sad, very sad.

  3. Whoever these people are they should be ashamed of themselves. But of course they won’t be, they have no shame. To proclaim they want to help the animals….and operate in a fiscally responsible manner……who do they plan to pay $50,000 when Kenille was never paid more than $15,000? Kenille loves those animals and they were/are her life. This whole thing sickens me. I have supported that shelter since 1991; sadly I will find other animals in need of my help; I will not/cannot be involved w/these people. Kenille, if you see this, God knows and I know you did no wrong.

  4. Who is this/these attorneys for the Board members. Why do they feel so compelled to use such inflammatory words and statements such as “diatribe” and “the shelter she PROFESSES to love.” They are doing their clients a huge disserve and only are causing more passion for Kenille. After reading their “statement” I can’t stand them even more than before. They sound so unprofessional.

    • Liking the way you think “Free Talker” The tone of everything has been inappropriate since day one. Sad……………very sad.

      • Thank you Carolyn. One thing is clear about “them”~ this is NOT about the animals. They have no reason nor business concerning themselves for 1 second about Kenille’s “reputation.” They need to worry about their own for the benefit of the shelter. We’ve heard over and over about how the financial future of it depends on these saviours, but again, instead of using this platform to outline a few specifics of their plan, they are preoccupied with besmirching Kenille which is only fueling the fire and works in Kenille’s favor.

        • True………….I wonder how much time will spent “Fundraising” to now be able to afford the hefty $50,000 salary ? Which will come 1st the “paycheck” or the “Groceries for the animals” ?

          • Carolyn, at this point in time, I am convinced they are psychotic after reading the latest post on Kenille’s support Facebook. Any person who would even think to adopt out a potentially dangerous dog isn’t worth a damm.
            Not only are they hurting dogs they claim to love but they are putting people in potential danger. If you know who is overseeing her Facebook could you have them post this info to the HSUS facebook. Also any idea if Cody and Butch are pit bull or pit bull mixes?

          • I don’t think the HSUS would do anything. People think they help the smaller shelters etc. Not so much.
            The Public can and should hold the “New Mgmt” accountable and check on these animals daily…………..The Mission is NO-KILL no matter whether dogs can be adopted or not……………they will have a safe place to spend their life. “Butch & Cody ” are great dogs………………they Just aren’t for the “average adopter” they need “Specialized Care & Training” by someone who knows the breed. Yes, we think they do have some Pit Bull Terrier in them. Patience & Time is what they need and of course LOVE

  5. I don’t know any of the board of directors .What I do know is back when it started in an old barn on airport rd and I was carpenter for the town of ocean city how Ms.Davies was down in the trenchs putting animal first place on her priority list. We made dog runs and cat cages that had room for them to have a normal life. It was hard stinky work for me but a labor of love for her.You have the most valuble resorce in Ms.Davies something money can’t buy.Love and experiance.A smart person would incorperate this into the running of the Shelter. You may win a battle and lose a war.Work together ,untie the knots of disagreement and make this right for the animals.God will reward you for your efforts three fold

    Thank you for your ear
    Fritz Pielert

  6. I have known Kenille for so many years, I cry every time i read this event, i do volunteers
    Work at the shelter and I know how hard she works for the animals, so sad, this is a sad sad time, I will continue to do work for the shelter, if they want me, my daughter Michelle Previti
    Started the dog walk fundraiser, she lives in Australia now, still stays connected with the shelter, so sad.

  7. My heart breaks for Kenille and the animals. These women are after something, and as time goes on, the truth will be known.
    They are taking Kenille’s life away and for that they will be remembered. Kenille will be remembered for her devotion, love and caring of the animals; no one can ever replace her. I really feel for the animals that will be subject to the new “director” and her cohorts.
    Kenille, I hope as this door closes another one will open for you and give you an opportunity to help the innocent ones. You deserve only the best in life and I hope you receive it soon…..

  8. I believe we will need to check the “pedigrees” of the people that inject themselves in local entities such as the shelter. To take someone as selfless as this out, and replace her so disrespectfully is criminal. The true locals have lost control of their town, and better get used to these types of things happening.

  9. Carolyn, You are right. HSUS doesn’t usually get involved with the day to day operations of local shelters.
    I’m thinking this Cody/Butch situation may be of interest to them given all the money they spent in MD leading to their success in having the MD COA ruling on dangerous dogs narrowed. Also within the past few weeks their was another pit related death, in Baltimore City I believe. This particular dog, a pet displayed warning signs which were ignored by it’s owner. Owner who was wheelchair bound was mauled to death.
    HSUS also acts as a resource for shelters so you don’t have to advertise on Facebook for a behavior specialist.
    I actually worked with the HSUS a bit, the most recent being birth control and the Assateague ponies and coming to an amicable agreement between them and the OC shark fishing contests. I could contact them but don’t feel it’s my place.

  10. To use as an excuse for stating your side of this horrible situation, which stinks something awful, the goodwill of the animals is ridiculous. No one held them in higher regard than Kenille. I volunteered at VCA, and helped with fundraisers, and adopted animals from HER shelter. She gave everything those animals needed with love and devotion. Your whole argument reeks of falsehoods! Which is why you are hiding behind that position. If she were so detrimental the place would have folded DECADES ago and many times over. It sounds like 3 petty women, bored with their own lives that wish to make others as miserable as they are. Prove me wrong. Have a press conference. Be transparent as Kenille was. The animals can’t watch. The only thing they know is that the woman who cared for them and loved them isn’t there anymore. YOU did that. With only your selfish needs as the catalyst. You should be ashamed of yourselves. You are horrible people pretending to be holier than thou. If you have something to say, say it. We are big kids, we can handle it. The animals deserve YOUR transparency. But you know you can’t. She STARTED that shelter! She WORKED it for 37 yrs!! She made 15,000, and you in your fiscally responsible wisdom want to put a stranger in there at 50,000!!! It would be laughable if it weren’t so petty and sad.

  11. It doesn’t sound like these “board members” handled things very well . Kenille has had a tough job over the years. People have donated knowing she would be there. How can we get rid of theses board members?

    Funny how the encouraged her to quiet down or they’d be forced to release addition damaging info . Doesn’t sound like Kenille cares about that weak ass threat.

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