Change afoot at humane society, nonprofit looking for new board members

Autumn Whitney
Lake Tahoe Humane Society will host a public meeting in the next two weeks for people interested in becoming board members.
Claire Cudahy / Tahoe Daily Tribune

The future of Lake Tahoe Humane Society will likely see change for the organization.

On Thursday, March 29, the nonprofit’s board met with a handful of members from the community to discuss the society’s future and brainstorm possible next steps — a list of ideas that included implementing a new board, recruiting more volunteers and selling its building housed on Emerald Bay Road.

Almost one year ago the humane society’s then-executive director Niki Congero was fired for allegedly embezzling thousands of dollars. In the time that has passed, board members have attempted to raise the money necessary to pay off debts and loans while continuing to offer usual services — but the team says it’s a lot of work for a small amount of people, and many of the programs, like spay and neuter, have stopped.

Board president Lorna Lefler said the organization has had a “hard year” and board members have stated they are exhausted from the amount of work they’ve put into the organization in the past 12 months. She believes it’s time for a new perspective.

“We want fresh blood and ideas, and we want more energy. It’s been a tough year. If the community wants us to stay open, please step up,” she said.

Board member Sue Pritchett said the organization has tried a variety of ways to increase funding and get more volunteers, but at the end of the day it’s the three board members who do most of the work.

“I can’t think of anything we haven’t done,” she noted.

In addition to raising money through events like Yappy Hour and photos with Santa Paws, Lake Tahoe Humane Society has set up booths at South Shore gatherings like Oktoberfest in an attempt to gain volunteers — but it is rare that people follow through, according to the board. Community members present at the meeting stated that due to what happened nearly one year ago many people do not trust the organization, and that it’s time for change.

Lefler expressed interest in having new faces “take the torch,” and all three current board members (the nonprofit is allowed up to five) — Lefler, Pritchett and Kim Stephenson — said they would be willing to step down from their positions in order for a new group of people to take over. They feel overworked and are ready for the nonprofit to have a fresh start.

“We’ve given our lives to this, and I want my life back,” Pritchett said.

Over the past year the board began the process of adapting and changing the nonprofit’s bylaws, and also implemented the practice of having more than one person included in processes involving money: The bank statement is assessed at every board meeting, two people sign checks and two people count money, according to Stephenson. But despite receiving a loan, the humane society’s finances are dwindling. The approximate $40,000 in its account will not last long when outstanding vet bills and other expenses are taken into consideration, according to the board. Exact numbers have not yet been released, but members are working on finalizing reports. Board members have considered selling the humane society’s property (884 Emerald Bay Road) — which it purchased three years ago — to raise more funds for the organization, but nothing has been decided.

“Things need to change, and we’re still trying to change them,” Lefler said.

The discussion ended with a resolution to host a public meeting in the next two weeks for the current board to convene with members of the community who are interested in becoming future board members. Topic will include a look at finances and the organization’s future. A specific date has yet to be announced. Current board members urged those who are interested in volunteering or becoming a member to email or call 530-544-2857 for additional information.

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