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NJSPCA acquires Hunterdon County SPCA

By August 14, 2015 Uncategorized No Comments
Hunterdon County SPCA

NJSPCA Acquires the Hunterdon County SPCA!

Here is an article from nj.com:

Hunterdon County SPCA Must Hand Over Assets

A judge has ordered the Hunterdon County SPCA to turn over its assets to the State SPCA and cease animal cruelty investigations.

According to state statutes, the charter gives the SPCA chapter the authority to enforce the state’s animal cruelty laws. Failure to enforce the laws is grounds for having a charter revoked.

Several years ago, the state tried to revoke the county’s charter but the move was rejected in the courts. In response to that notice of revocation, the Board of the Hunterdon SPCA voted to transfer most of its assets to the Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter, a move that was later upheld in court.

However, the Hunterdon SPCA remained in existence as a separate entity and has continued to collect donations. The board of directors is the same for both the HCSPCA and Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter.

On March 23, 2015 the NJSPCA Board of Trustees unanimously voted to revoke the county’s charter.

On July 30, Judge Edward Coleman upheld the revocation of the charter, finding it was not done arbitrarily or capriciously. Under state statutes a county SPCA must turn over its assets once the charter is revoked.

Judge Coleman rejected the Hunterdon SPCA’s claim that it was not granted due process. A hearing was held by the NJSPCA on March 10. Judge Coleman noted in a memorandum submitted with the order that Walter Wilson, a Hunterdon SPCA board member and longtime attorney whose law license was suspended earlier this year, and another representative of the HCSPCA were at that meeting. Wilson was also given extra time to supply additional information before a final vote was taken by the NJSCPA two weeks later, according to the memorandum.

The revocation of the charter was based on charges that the county failed to meet the requirements of the state statutes such as having a properly trained and certified Chief Humane Law Enforcement Officer and the lack of enforcement of animal cruelty laws. According to quarterly reports filed by the county agency for 2012 and 2013, only one case resulted in a conviction. Few other charges were even filed although 14 to 27 complaints were received each quarter.

In one case, charges against a well-known equestrian were dropped because the statute of limitations had run out by the time the charges were filed. That equestrian, Cesar Parra, was involved in a lawsuit regarding a horse that was severely injured while being exercised by Parra. A jury ruled that Parra was not liable for the horse’s injuries. The horse’s owner filed a motion for a new trial but it was denied.

Meanwhile Parra sued the Hunterdon SPCA and The Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office claiming malicious prosecution. That case is still active.

With the county charter revoked, the state will handle any cruelty investigations.

Another reason the state group revoked the county’s charter was the failure of the board of trustees to hold meetings with sufficient members present. According to its own minutes, the county agency’s board of trustees held meetings throughout 2014 with only three of the seven board members in attendance. Due to the lack of a quorum, any votes taken are null and void, according to a letter from NJSPCA attorney Harry Levin.

“What was learned through this case is that there was little appetite for enforcement of the animal cruelty laws and much, much more interest in fundraising under the umbrella of the SPCA. In the past donations made to the HCSPCA were diverted to the Hunterdon Animal Shelter treasury.” Levin wrote.

While attorneys have claimed that the state is merely after the Hunterdon SPCA and Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter’s assets, Levin wrote, “Contrary to the harangue of the HC Animal Shelter, the action to revoke the Hunterdon SPCA charter is anything but ‘a money grab.’ … The Hunterdon SPCA’s assets, after all bills are paid, would have to be put into an escrow account to be later transferred to a new SPCA, if one is formed as per state statutes.”

According to tax returns, over the last few years the HCSPCA has taken in an average of about $38,000 a year, while spending just a few thousand in annual expenses. That is except for the 2011 tax return, which shows an expense of $85,000 for unspecified “expense reimbursements.” At the end of 2013, HCSPCA’s net assets were just under $70,000, according to the most recently available tax returns provided to www.Guidestar.org.

Hunterdon Humane animal shelter has more than $5 million in assets, according to its most recently available tax return. It’s not clear if the humane shelter’s assets are affected by Judge Coleman’s ruling.

Meanwhile, the shelter was given extra time to respond to a lawsuit filed by an employee who claims she was fired in retaliation for cooperating with the prosecutors in the investigation against Carlson. Ewa Kutylowska’s attorney was planning to file a motion for default judgment but instead on July 13 the shelter was given another 30 days to file an answer.

According to the lawsuit, Carlson is at the shelter every day and despite the agreement with the prosecutors office appears to be in control.

 

Here’s another story from nj.com:

NJSPCA To Revoke Hunterdon SPCA’s Charter, Again

A renewed effort is being made to revoke the charter of the Hunterdon County SPCA.

For more than an hour on April 9, attorneys met with Judge Edward Coleman behind closed doors in Somerville for a status conference. The parties agreed to exchange certain information by specific dates, according to NJSPCA Attorney Harry Levin. He said he would be sending a letter to the county informing them of state’s plans to revoke the county charter.

Although the Hunterdon County SPCA has always run an animal shelter, according to state statutes the charter gives the SPCA chapter the authority to enforce the state’s animal cruelty laws.

Levin said Hunterdon has not done much enforcement in recent years. Failure to enforce the laws is grounds for a charter to be revoked.

Several years ago, the state tried to revoke the county’s charter but was thwarted in the courts. In response to that notice of revocation, the Board of the Hunterdon SPCA voted to transfer most of its assets to the Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter, a move that was later upheld by the courts.

However, the Hunterdon SPCA remained in existence and has continued to collect donations. The board of directors is the same for both the Hunterdon County SPCA and Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter.

The most recent attempt to revoke the charter was in January 2014. That was after the state was granted receivership of Hunterdon Humane Animal Shelter when shelter president Theresa “Tee” Carlson was charged with animal cruelty.

Judge Coleman wanted to give the Hunterdon County SPCA a chance to defend itself regarding the charter in court and the matter was put on hold. More hearings are likely regarding the charter, but no new court dates were immediately set.

Levin said if the charter is revoked, the organization can no longer do fundraising. He said money donated to the SPCA was being transferred to the shelter.

He said that when someone gives money to a charity they expect the money to be used for an intended purpose, and the primary purpose of the SPCA is law enforcement. The state SPCA doesn’t run any shelters.

“If you give money to the Heart Association they can’t turn around and give it to the Cancer Society,” Levin said after the conference.

According to tax returns, over the last few years the HCSPCA has taken in an average of about $38,000 a year, while spending just a few thousand in annual expenses. That is except for the 2011 tax return which shows an expense of $85,000 for unspecified “expense reimbursements.”

Meanwhile, the animal cruelty case filed against Carlson was settled just before a trial was to be held in late February.

In exchange for her agreement to forego her voting privileges on the board, and refrain from shelter management, the Prosecutor’s Office agreed to hold the charges in abeyance for 12 months.

If Carlson, 85, fully complies, the charges will be dismissed.