The secretary of the SPCA Board of Directors has resigned his post, leaving behind a long list of accusations that another board member refutes and adds her own accusations that actions by the secretary were “illegal.”
Josh Serum, who had been serving as secretary of the board, submitted his resignation Thursday.
His departure was quickly followed by a dispute of his accusations and a sharp critique of his actions — and that of other board members — by Bradley County Commissioner and SPCA board member Charlotte Peak-Jones.
“As you have probably heard by now, I used [Shelter Director] Bobbi [Anderson’s] account to log into Shelter Buddy to look a the animal data,” Serum wrote in his resignation.
Shelter Buddy is a database system used by animal shelters to track the animals that come through.
Serum stated he wanted to see how the software was being utilized and to see the information on the animals being processed through the shelter.
He stated it was his impression physical paperwork was still being used and not the database.
“I fail to see why a board member wanting to see numbers is some sort of gross misconduct,” Serum wrote. “All board members should have access to this and should be free to look at any paperwork as well ... The fact that no one has any knowledge of this kind of information is concerning.”
He said his resignation was not “any admission of misconduct, not because my attempt to rectify the situations listed below and get information have failed.”
There were 13 items he listed as concerns including:
- Reports of the shelter director’s complete mishandling of the recent puppy mill situation.
- Reports of leaving sick animals untreated.
- Reports of animals being left outside in hot conditions for six hours and more.
- Reports of the lack of documentation being done.
- Reports of not using the database software.
- Reports of unbalanced financial books.
- Reports of housing animals in rooms not designed for that use; door locks being changed with no notice to the board.
- Reports of preferred volunteers being allowed to bully, verbally assault and deny access to other volunteers.
- Reports of volunteers, and not the director, denying access to other volunteers.
- Inability to contact the director via email or phone.
- The director being reported as most of the time seen sitting outside smoking and on her cellphone.
- Reports of paid employees being told by parties other than the director they are no longer employees.
Peak-Jones was quick to respond to the charges, saying Serum’s approach was illegal.
“The board as individual members have no power,” she responded. “According to the law, all decisions must be made as a group. The fact that you hacked into the system using someone else’s log-in information without consent is misconduct and against the law.”
Peak-Jones added reports and claims of a volunteer seeing another volunteer doing something or seeing the director outside smoking “are not prudent complaints or cause for alarm.”
“As for the other claims, when I make unannounced visits to the facility, I see none of the mishandling of animals,” she said. “And, the city of Cleveland has also found no violations on their unannounced inspection of the facility as well.”
She added the shelter director “has full authority to change door locks and procedures as she sees fit,” as well as having “full power to deny access to anyone as she deems reasonable ... whatever it takes for her to run a successful SPCA shelter.”
Peak-Jones noted the shelter is a new venture and, like any new business, “will evolve and change as we face new situations.”
“It is appalling the board doesn’t take the sanctity and the power of the board as a whole more seriously,” she wrote. “Whether it is a board consisting of paid or unpaid members, the oaths that you take are serious and the by-laws are binding. I have never been involved in an organization where so many individuals want to act as individuals and not as a team. I hope that all involved, including the volunteers can rise above the hate and animosity and help this system work.”
Peak-Jones also gave a strong defense for the shelter director who is now in her third month on the job.
“The slander that Bobbi Anderson has endured is the most appalling,” she wrote. “She is doing an outstanding job and I cannot say enough about her calmness and professionalism when she is attacked daily.”
Peak-Jones called Anderson “a true animal lover and works beyond the call of duty and salary she is paid.”
“I hope that she continues with SPCA in spite of the conflicts and shows Cleveland and Bradley County that SPCA sheltering is top notch,” she concluded.