McKamey Animal Center Has Run Off Another Great Board Member - And Response (4)

Friday, September 13, 2013
Carol Goodman  was asked to resign from the board of McKamey Animal Center. She is being accused of personal attacks on the board members. She was told at the meeting if she doesn't like it there, leave. So many animal advocates have left the board at McKamey's  because of the mismanagement by Karen Walsh. Carol Goodman is the sacrificial lamb in order to take the spotlight off the financial inaccuracies and the violation of the Tennessee Open Meetings Act.
McKamey's is a non-profit and yet pays Karen Walsh, a licensed vet tech, over $100,000 a year plus a bonus of $10,000 and paid the taxes on it, too, so that bonus is really $15,000.
 Her salary started at $80,000 originally. Karen Walsh said she has received bonuses every year to offset her low starting salary. She has received $60,000.00 in bonuses over four years. Guy Bilyeu, the director of the Humane Educational Society, was paid $90,000 in 2012 with 10 years experience and he turned around HES, too.  McKamey's is funded through the Police Department's budget. Karen Walsh makes more than the chief of police and yet she states she is underpaid. The vote on Karen's salary was not approved by the board. After the last bonus, the board members were emailed to obtain a vote after the fact. That is a direct violation of McKamey's by-laws and the Tennessee Open Meetings Act.
Why is there not a city representative on the board at McKamey's? Before the new mayor took over, there was, and Mayor Berke has not appointed anyone else to sit on the board. With city tax money funding McKamey's, we need representation to make sure everything is legal and above board.
McKamey's reputation in the community is horrible. The staff is rude, condescending, and they lack customer service skills.  The center's floor plan is not conducive to view the animals. How can an animal get adopted if they can't be seen? A potential adopter has to be escorted to the other areas in the back because there is no way to get there easily. The problem with that is there are not enough volunteers or staff to escort potential adopters.  So, potential adopters have to wait for long periods of time. How many people have just left because of that? I suggested that they use the breakroom as a hallway to the areas in the back so the public could see the dogs. They could relocate the breakroom. That idea was not received well. There is still no plan in place to make the viewing of the animals more user friendly.
Off site adoptions is a misnomer. It should be called offsite viewing, as you cannot adopt offsite. You have to go back to the center, fill out a lengthy application and talk to a counselor. You are looking at a 15-minute drive from Petsmart to McKamey's and probably another 1 to 1.5 hours to go through the process. A lot of people won't do that. McKamey's attitude is that is the potential adopter's problem, when in reality, it is the animal's problem and they lost out on a forever home. I frequently hear that a person just went to HES or Pet Placement Center or East Ridge Shelter to get an animal as they are so much easier to deal with. At least they got a shelter dog or cat.
If you go to McKamey's to purchase a retail item, you are looking at a 30-45-minute wait to pay for it, not because people are in line ahead of you, just because of their checkout procedure. If you donate items, you also are looking for a long wait time, if you want a receipt or not. There are wish list items listed on the website and if you take items to the facility you are greeted with disdain. As a volunteer, if you want to drop off a can of money and pick up empty cans, you are looking at least a 15-30 minute wait and that's if someone knows where the empty cans are. Adoption can take well over an hour.
Carol Goodman knows the mission of the center and has supported it financially ($70,000 in donations over the last couple of years) and with her time and energy. She is responsible for Victoria Stillwell coming to the center and it was a great fundraiser.  She is an animal advocate in every sense of the word and is a woman of integrity and is kind and generous. She has never made it "us versus them" as the board secretary Nancy Dunlap said. She has made it about right and wrong and legal and illegal, as she stated. She has always been a team player but has wanted answers that apparently the board doesn't want to answer. This maneuver to oust her from the board is a preemptive strike  to stop the discussion of Karen Walsh's salary and the violation of the Tennessee Open Meetings Act. 

Suzanne Keith

* * *

I don't know a lot about the McKamey Animal Center, but if you are a vet tech making six figures and whining about your low pay, as Karen Walsh is doing, you get exactly zero sympathy from me.  In fact, it makes me wonder exactly what you do to deserve that salary, not to mention bonuses every year.

McKamey Animal Center was obviously one of Ron Littlefield's pet projects, pardon the pun, and I certainly applaud the work they do, but it also looks like there are some plum positions there that nobody hears about, and Ron is (or was) able to slip the right people in there to reap the rewards.  

I still remember the Anita Ebersole quagmire at the 311 Center and I also remember how Mr. Littlefield's spokesperson (like he needed one) ended up with a wonderful job in personnel, even though he had no specific experience in that field.  Politics as usual, I guess.

Herb Montgomery

* * *

I've adopted twice from McKamey and buy animal gifts there a lot. I know lots of people who have gotten wonderful, healthy animals there without having to wait too long and I'm glad they make people fill out paperwork so they know a dog or cat is going to a decent home and not some hoarder. I think the place was in pretty bad shape when it opened and if Ms Walsh turned it around and hired that wonderful staff they have, I say she should be paid accordingly. 

Sounds like a bitter woman to me who is causing trouble and was invited to leave. Happens all the time on boards and it's pretty sad when you have to get your friends to write nasty letters about such a good organization. 

McKamey has won all kinds of awards, they got some big award from the Chamber just last year and a big company came and did a TV show about them. Sounds pretty well run to me. 

Jeanne Hearte

* * *

I don't know anything about the board at McKamey; however, Ms. Walsh's salary and bonuses should be questioned.   Perhaps Ms. Walsh should care more about the animals than whining about her pay, which is well above what most people make in Chattanooga. 

How can anyone say the shelter is well run when the euthanasia rate is so high?  Perhaps the euthanasia rate has changed, but last I heard it was 60 percent which is unacceptable.   

I live in Hixson and cringe every time I have to pass McKamey. 

Vicki Hill

* * * 

First of all, I always thought it a shame that the Humane Society didn't receive the benefit of Ron Littlefield's largesse.  They stretch their resources to do more with less than this community should expect.  They get my donations whenever I have anything to donate, and they always seems grateful to get what we have to give. We've also adopted from the Humane Society more than once and have gotten sweet, loving pets to be a part of our family.  As long as it exists, the Humane Society will always be our go-to for both donating and adopting.  

Second, although I have never been on the McKamey campus, and can't speak to any on-site problems, I can speak to their responsiveness in an emergency situation.  

Several years ago, on a Saturday morning, my youngest daughter was riding her bike in our neighborhood.  She came home describing a dog she had seen acting very strangely.  She believed the dog was rabid and her description of the dog's appearance and actions lead me to believe it as well.  I believe I called the Chattanooga Police Department first, and was instructed to contact McKamey.  I called McKamey and left a message on their "emergency" line, leaving my cell phone number so that I could be reached.  We left the house not long after that initial call, headed to some event or project.  I called again that afternoon and left another voicemail on the "emergency" line.  

I finally received a return call - on Tuesday.  I do not remember the gentleman's name who returned the call, but I do recall that he was less than concerned that more than three days had gone by and that a possible rabid dog was running loose somewhere.  I think when I told him I had expected a return call on Saturday that he responded that they didn't monitor the phones on the weekends. 

We were very fortunate because my daughter recognized that the dog was acting very abnormally and knew to back away very easily so as to not make herself a target.  She did the right thing and I did the right thing; however, it was basically useless because of McKamey's lack of immediate response.    

Sharon M. Milling

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