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Fired SPCA Suncoast executive director sues, claiming wrongful termination

Martha Murray, who was fired last year from her job as executive director of the SPCA Suncoast, has filed a lawsuit against the animal shelter claiming wrongful termination.

The suit, filed in Pinellas County, says the New Port Richey nonprofit violated state law and its own bylaws by not giving Murray proper notice of the special meeting where the board of directors voted to fire her. In addition, the suit says there was not a quorum of directors present at the meeting, as required in the bylaws.

Murray declined to discuss the details of the suit Thursday or say whether she seeks a monetary award or to be reinstated. When she was fired last year, she told the St. Petersburg Times she planned to hire a lawyer, saying "I want my shelter back."

Her lawsuit asks for compensatory damages and "other relief."

Murray, 53, said she continues to volunteer at local animal shelters and is in her 13th year hosting a local pet of the week television spot.

"It's basically the same thing I've done for years," she said.

A message left with the SPCA on Thursday was not returned.

Last year, when Murray was fired after two years as director, she said she was told the organization was going in a "new direction."

The SPCA released a statement then saying only that Murray was no longer the director.

Gail Armstrong was named as her replacement.

Murray was paid about $31,000 a year when she was let go. The lawsuit notes that she earned raises at regular intervals the entire time she worked for the SPCA from June 2006 through March 2009.

The SPCA, which has its shelter on Congress Street, has faced financial problems in recent years, running deficits and dipping into its assets. Murray said she helped turn that around and cleaned up the conditions at the shelter.

She said Thursday she's still dedicated to the cause.

"My heart has always been with the pets," she sad. "It's my passion, it's my mission to help them."

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Fired SPCA Suncoast executive director sues, claiming wrongful termination 04/29/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 29, 2010 8:48pm]
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