Lake Tahoe Humane Society implements new board with focus on transparency | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Lake Tahoe Humane Society implements new board with focus on transparency

After a year of battling to restore the community's trust in Lake Tahoe Humane Society, the organization's former three board members have stepped down from their roles and a new board of five has taken over.

On April 21, Michael Dalton, Sandra DeLeon, Chantale Hansen, Mariel Berei and Elizabeth Naylor began their tenures at the humane society with one major goal: to release a Restart, Rebuild, Restore and Re-Engage Plan to the community within 30 days.

According to the organizational update the nonprofit issued on Thursday, April 26, the plan's outcome will ideally "re-engage the community, through transparency, clear and regular communications, new operating principles, checks and balances, and reducing the operating overhead, while increasing services to the Lake Tahoe community that have been compromised by the actions of the past executive director."

Approximately one year ago, the past board accused former executive director Niki Congero of embezzling thousands of dollars from the humane society. The situation left the nonprofit in a "dire financial situation and with a tarnished reputation," according to the organization's update, which notes that the board is unaware of any filed charges or restitution. It directs all questions to the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office.

The DA's office said it doesn't comment on open investigations.

It's this circumstance that has prompted the humane society to search for change and implement new practices.

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"We're going to be very transparent with our financials. In our first release we've already given information on our expenses," said Dalton, president of the humane society.

According to the nonprofit's organizational update, transparency will be apparent in two ways: Members will post regular updates (once or twice each week, as well as on an as-needed basis) to the humane society website and Facebook page, and an all-new TransPAWrency document has been created. It is devoted to answering the community's questions in a transparent manner — those with questions are encouraged to email feedback@laketahoehumanesociety.org, and the answers will be added to the TransPAWrency document found on the organization's website.

Due to the amount of debt the humane society is in after the past year, one of the areas that is most important in terms of transparency (according to board members), is financials.

"It is recognized that trust, confidence and integrity have been lost. As the new treasurer, I will assure that the organization is accountable to its supporters and the Lake Tahoe community," stated Naylor in the organizational update. "I will strive to maintain accurate and timely records, work with the compliance, governance and operations officers to institute business practices that deliver the checks and balances necessary to instill confidence that all contributions align to the mission and goals of the Humane Society."

The organization also plans to share financial reports with the community online on a regular basis. A breakdown of average monthly operating costs ($4,231.20) is currently available in the TransPAWrency document.

About the Board

Dalton, along with DeLeon and Hansen — both vice presidents — secretary Berei and treasurer Naylor, enter the organization with a variety of experiences.

"It was challenging to narrow down to the final five that the bylaws allow for, however, we believe that we have chosen a board with a core set of professionals who are passionate about changing the existing landscape of the organization. Each bring an array of professional skills and nonprofit business acumen — in addition to an incredible love for animals and contributing to the greater good of Lake Tahoe," said former board president Lorna Lefler in the organizational update.

Together the new board members — all of whom live in the Tahoe Basin — are looking to use their skills in order to implement new practices and rebuild the humane society's reputation in the coming months.

Those in positions of authority within the organization are now required to not only have a love for animals, but also possess previous board experience and business skills — and pass a background check. The background checks are currently being ordered.

The other change in the humane society's structure is that all positions are now volunteer-based and unpaid — a decision made in order to "reduce operating expenditures and restore services," according to the organizational update, which also states that the focus is "being good stewards with limited resources."

These new requirements will be reflected in the humane society's bylaws, which are currently in the process of being updated and will be posted online for community access once completed.

"Mostly policies, procedures, custody issues over any finances that we have, background investigations on board members — that's primarily what we're going to start off with, and making sure the community is comfortable working with the organization," said Dalton.

Things to Know

The humane society runs thanks to volunteers and donations — and the new board is making both a priority.

Clean Tahoe's annual Spring Cleanup Day is Saturday, May 12, and Lake Tahoe Humane Society is in the process of setting up its own cleanup day that coincides with the city-wide event. More details will be released once date and time is confirmed, but volunteers are needed to help clean out the humane society's shed located at the organization's property at 884 Emerald Bay Road.

Board members also are looking to implement a donor campaign within approximately the next week. Additional information will be announced via the humane society website when details are solidified.

Both of these directly affect the nonprofit's ability to provide programs and services — including pet food distribution and spay/neuter. The former program is still available, and while the latter has been discontinued, board members are hoping to raise enough funds to bring it back.

Lake Tahoe Humane Society also is launching a logo design contest in an effort to collaborate with the community to "breathe new life into the organization," according to a release from the nonprofit. The contest, which concludes Thursday, May 31, invites people of all ages to submit a new logo that reflects the organization's transformation. Additional information about contest guidelines is found on the humane society Facebook page.

Lake Tahoe Humane Society no longer has regular office hours — the best way to contact the organization is to call the main line at 530-542-2857 — but the organization will offer food pickup on Fridays from 9 a.m. through noon.

Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to download the form on the Lake Tahoe Humane Society website and send it to volunteer@laketahoehumanesociety.org. The nonprofit is currently looking for someone with web design experience to re-organize its website.

View the complete organizational update and TransPAWrency document at http://www.laketahoehumanesociety.org. Additional information about the logo contest and more can be found on the nonprofit's Facebook page (@LakeTahoeHumaneSocietySPCA).