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In less than a half-year Hernando's SPCA board turns over

SPRING HILL — The SPCA of Hernando County is getting new leadership — again.

Six board members and officers, elected only in January, resigned as of Monday. They were replaced at a membership meeting Wednesday evening called by Aileen Berry, a member of the board of directors who is remaining in that position.

Since late last year, former and current board members have been hissing and yapping at each other like, well, cats and dogs. Their agendas have differed.

When Vicky Dietrich was elected to the board in January, she viewed what she thought was the division of labor as cat people and dog people, volunteers dedicated to care for each species. But she said she came to learn that the division was cat-lovers and dog-lovers, and seldom the twain would meet.

When the January board took over, more than 200 cats were in residence at the no-kill shelter, many confined to cages, some stacked in the hall rather than free to roam in feline rooms and sun porches.

"They wanted it as a sanctuary for cats," said ex-board member Lindsay Rance, who resigned. "And they didn't give them the care and attention they needed. Stacking animals is not humane."

The shelter is supposed to house a maximum of 65 cats.

Dogs were also housed in hallway cages. The shelter has 19 indoor-outdoor spaces for dogs, but more than that number had been accepted.

The first step the board elected in January took to get the census under control was to stop taking in animals until those on hand could be adopted out, said Linda Brack, who was among those elected.

The new board also rewrote the bylaws for the nonprofit organization, and voted to include the election of officers rather than just a nine-member board.

The action was lauded by CPA analyst Eugene D. Ashman of Spring Hill, who wrote in a report covering years 2000-2007, "The workings of this organization do not conform, or even resemble, the operations of the companies I have advised in the last 40-plus years."

Board member Berry said the new board was not adhering to the former bylaws. Berry claimed the new board issued credit cards to officers, which she questioned.

Dietrich, chosen by the board to be treasurer as well as a board member, explained that two board members were issued credit cards under the SPCA name to buy necessities, notably veterinary medications. To use their personal credit cards would have been a bookkeeping headache, she said.

Dietrich, with experience in bookkeeping and finance, also instituted a protocol for handling bills. The previous treasurer, she said, opened and sorted all mail, wrote checks and signed them, even remunerations to herself, without consultation. Dietrich assigned the opening of mail to one person, dispensing of bills to another director and signing procedures to a third, to ensure an accurate chain of payment.

The January board also terminated a member in March for breach of rules and regulations. Charlene Lambertsen, they said, accepted cats during the intake respite and adopted out dogs to people who did not meet SPCA specifications. Lambertsen did not contest the allegations.

As for what happened to the cat population during the moratorium on intakes, past president Michele McCabe said three cats died from terminal illnesses. Protestors claimed many more had died, a claim that was not substantiated by Hernando County Animal Services.

The resigned board members are McCabe, Dietrich, Rance, Brack, Mary Zero and Marge Jones. Staying on board, and re-elected Wednesday, were Berry and Al Iannuzzi.

Also elected Wednesday were Earl Gutknecht, a former board member, who was named president; Lambertsen, selected as vice president; Lois Fortunato, reinstalled as board member and treasurer; Pat Thornburg, secretary; and at-large board members Rosemary Rusconi, LeeAnn Foust and Tracey Hedges.

Beth Gray can be contacted at

In less than a half-year Hernando's SPCA board turns over 05/01/08 [Last modified: Sunday, May 4, 2008 12:00pm]
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