Local News

Humane Society officers don't want to meet with detractors

SEBRING - Barry Edgley continues to push for a meeting with the board of the Humane Society of Highlands County. "It's got to happen if they want to survive," said Edgley. He and his wife, Jill, run a private animal rescue in Zolfo Springs. However, Humane Society President Judy Spiegel and Vice President Sandy Anderson aren't going to call that meeting, they said Thursday. "There is no meeting planned," Anderson said. "The board has made a decision that they are all are comfortable with."
The board fired shelter director Amanda Helton last week and asked Holly and Adam Voge to oversee the office. Anderson said Thursday the search for a new director hasn't started yet. Edgley and others have called for a meeting to discuss what they say are problems within the organization. On a Facebook page, members and volunteers questioned humane society finances. Anderson said Humane Society members and volunteers called their own meeting two weeks ago. "They demanded our presence at an unplanned meeting. Only Judy and I could attend. We did, and they accused us of all these things. It was a vicious witch hunt. It was horrible," Anderson said. She and Spiegel said they were subjects of yelling and accusations. Two board members are currently on vacation, Spiegel said. "Why would we want another meeting like that?" Anderson asked. "How would that benefit us in any manner? So we do not want to meet with them for that reason." "This has gotten silly," Edgley agreed on Wednesday. "It's gotten very political. They've turned the humane society into the Dramatic Party. "People are sniping at each other on Facebook," he said, referring to the Bring Back Amanda Helton page. "It's gotten so very personal on both sides, It's terrible. It's not doing the humane society any good. But we've got to have a general meeting. Let's just all go and get this sorted out." No, Anderson said. "We want to maintain a professionalism, and we refuse to be bullied and wrongly accused," Anderson said. Are humane society records open to the public? Spiegel didn't want to comment, except to say, "We have nothing to hide." Can humane society financial records be inspected by any member? "No member has asked us to show them our financial records," Spiegel said. "Every check is accounted for," Anderson said. "Our board takes this extremely seriously." Anderson said an outside accounting firm will be hired to review current expenses, but declined to name the firm. "We are looking for someone. We are working through the bank. We are going to get every dime accounted for. We will do this. And then we will make the information accessible to the people, people entitled to get the information. Members and donors." "The shelter is operating as it always has," Spiegel said. "We continue to receive support and donations from the public, and we hope to continue to do so. This is about the animals." Spiegel said the blueprints for a new dog facility are in a final stages and will be put out for bids when they are done. "We are looking forward to that, to having our dogs in a facility that will make their lives a little more comfortable for the time they spend with us at the shelter." Both Anderson and Spiegel have said this year's version of the Terror Trail - the society's major annual fundraiser - may be in jeopardy because of the recent rain. The three-week Halloween event is held in the hammock behind humane society compound on Haywood Taylor Boulevard. "We're still watching the weather," Spiegel said. "We're still undecided on what we will do." gpinnell@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5828