Bradley County Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones said she would be contacting the state comptroller’s office concerning potential conflicts of interest by SPCA President Betti Gravelle.
The commissioner spoke to the Cleveland Daily Banner after Monday’s board meeting where Gravelle presented an item saying shelter director Bobbi Anderson did not respond to a reported aggressive dog call.
Gravelle called that, among other issues, “insubordination” and won a vote to terminate Anderson.
Peak-Jones, after several attempts,
made a detailed statement which she said showed the SPCA board was derelict in its duties following the policies it had adopted earlier in the year.
She said that although Gravelle kept talking about implementing her plan, in actuality Gravelle never had one in writing and the board had already adopted a standard set of policies from a national shelter organization.
Peak-Jones noted one of the guidelines of being on the board of a nonprofit included signing a conflict of interest document.
“SPCA was created by Betti Gravelle,” Peak-Jones said. “Betti Gravelle did not submit an application for director of SPCA nor did she submit a plan or written policy. In her own words last month on July 28, she said her plan was ‘Cleveland for no kill.’”
She pointed to the minutes of the board meeting of Jan. 1 and where they showed there were no motions that dictated the director would report to the president; no motions submitting any policies on how to run the facility; the establishment of a hierarchy where the director reports to the SPCA board; no duties for the president to run the shelter; and a no-kill shelter was not adopted.
Peak-Jones also presented the board minutes from Feb. 18 where the board adopted “Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters” from the Association of Shelter Veterinarians which includes setting a capacity for a shelter.
The minutes of the April 1 meeting where Anderson was hired show confirmation that there was a job description.
Peak-Jones noted Anderson was never given any forms or a guidebook or the policy that was adopted on Feb. 18 — only a verbal description from Gravelle and former communications director Beth Foster.
She said it was only during May that Anderson was told about the Feb. 18 policy adoption at which time Anderson began work on forms and practices set forth by the policy.
“The president is not the boss over the SPCA facility, nor did the SPCA give her that authority,” Peak-Jones said. “The director reports to the SPCA board only. The director decides how to run the facility, staff and volunteers in accordance to the policy adopted on Feb. 18, 2014.”
Peak-Jones apologized to Anderson and “takes responsibility for being uninformed about the policy.”
“We are responsible for the chaos that has been created,” she said. “We inadvertently transferred power back and forth and created a hostile environment in an unprofessional setting.”
“The president should have never been given any authority to implement any policy other than what the board had already established,” she continued, “The president has never submitted any policy of her own or any plan of action in writing.”
Peak-Jones also said it is “a direct conflict of interest for the current president to be overseeing any policy at SPCA.”
“The conflict of interest statement clearly defines that. The president can’t be involved in both the board and the daily operations of SPCA,” she said.
She told the Banner the whole meeting was “ludicrous.”
“I can’t believe the board voted against something they had already put into place,” Peak-Jones said. “I put the facts out and they still voted to fire Bobbi on insubordination that may or may not be factual.”
She also emphasized the board had passed a 30-day moratorium on hiring and firing that does not expire until next Tuesday.
“They have set precedent that any policy set today may go away at the next meeting,” she said.
She said she thinks Anderson might have a legal case of slander and unlawful termination against Gravelle.
“I know that it’s an at-will state and you can fire with no cause, but we voted no one would be terminated in that 30-day period,” she said. “And, Bobbi was never told of the 911 [telephone call] problem. The board was never given any heads up about any insubordination.”
She also said those guidelines which were adopted “do set capacity limits and tell you how many animals you can have per square foot.”
“All we could do was take intakes one day a week, and try to move animals the rest of the week,” she said. “We can’t put them on top of each other. You can only do what you can do.”
She said she would like to see the new director take animals every day of the week and not move them.
“I think the president did not move animals on purpose so she could say that Bobbi was insubordinate on purpose,” Peak-Jones said. “I think she purposely sabotaged the 30 days so Bobbi would look bad and no animals were moved so she would be in insubordination of the board.”
Peak-Jones also questioned Gravelle’s part in three different animal nonprofit groups including the SPCA, Cleveland for a No Kill City and Dixie Spay Neuter Express.
She noted the SPCA financial statement of July 1 through Aug. 17 shows SPCA spent $3,630 for spay and neuter services.
“That’s her business,” Peak-Jones said. “She called it a wash, but I don’t know.”