Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The World has Exploded around Us

I picked a bad time to get the flu I think. The world of dog politics in the HRM and Nova Scotia has positively gone absolutely insane. There are articles being written in every newspaper and it seems like everyone is noticing. The NS SPCA has even issued a press release and dared to call it "Press Release: SPCA commits to improve transparency".

The press release itself is a jumbled mess of sentences that seem to me to be a reactionary diatribe from a group of people who aren't quite sure what they're supposed to be doing. One thing is for sure, they're looking for a scapegoat - and I'm glad that I'm not the person in charge of the SPCA Education Committee right now, because they've pinned all their "transparency" on that one person. Are they now going to say - "if you want any information you're going to have to find it in our newsletter?

Oh, I've got so much to talk about here, I don't know where to start.... so maybe I'll start at the AGM. But here's the section on the chatty Cathy's bit:

Mr. Degen was trying to divert attention away from the fact that someone in the crowd had brought up the wonderful 2005 report that the HRM had commissioned to look into the SPCA having the Animal Control and Animal Sheltering Contract with the City, and:

Someone brings up the report – "What about the report – "Restoring Harmony in the Nova Scotia SPCA Board of Directors"

And Terry says – "No, listen – if you want to be an advocate, let's deal with what we have – we have a whole room of "Chatty Cathy's". But at the end of the day, Look, what we need to do… Look, believe me, every time I go to a meeting with the Board I go back against the wall cause I'd like to neuter everybody. So, let's get on with it.

Heather M says – "I think you should be removed" – amid a melee of voices in the crowd.

So that's how the "Chatty Cathy's" and "neutering" came up.

Here is some more verbatim conversation from Saturday's meeting - and then I'm going to give you my commentary on it at the end of it:

Heather M stands up and says "this is an internal study for animal control in HRM – Pam says "in 2005? (Heather reads the blurb that talks about how Pam doing 3 jobs) - "We were unable to obtain an Organizational Chart for the NS SPCA, but through discussions we learned that both the Animal Control Project Manager and the SPCA Shelter Manager report to the NS Shelter Director. However, we understand that the Shelter Director (who was not present during either of our visits to the SPCA) is a Volunteer Member of the NS SPCA Board of Directors, who is only available on a part-time basis, outside regular employment hours. This clearly is not an acceptable
arrangement. Considering the size of the SPCA operation and the differerent agency responsibilities, it is essential to have a full-time CEO or Executive Director on-site with the appropriate background and experience to provide supervision, expertise, backup and support to staff."

(Pam K breaks in and says) "We don't have a Director for the Provincial Society – that costs about $60,000 or so which we never approved, part of that responsibility was we've operated for the last 4 or 5 years or so without a CEO to save costs so that the monies raised could go directly towards helping the animals which ultimately is what we're all here for."

Terry D says,"no, with all due respect – that is a report, that is a paid for report by HRM - a strategic move to allow them to take over Animal Control. I was fully involved in ….inaudible… and what was actually going on in HRM was to create a new branch within the HRM of paid employees and that's why that report was created". (Someone tries to interject and Terry says: ) "No, no, I'm not going to read the
report in here, and " Someone brings up the report – "What about the report – "Restoring Harmony in the Nova Scotia SPCA Board of Directors" And Terry says – "No, listen – if you want to be an advocate, let's deal with what we have – we have a whole room of "Chatty Cathy's". But at the end of the day, Look, what we need to do… Look, believe me, every time I go to a meeting with the Board I go back against the wall cause I'd like to neuter everybody. So, let's get on with it. Heather Morrison says – "I think you should be removed" – amid a melee of voices in the crowd.

So that's also the CONTEXT of the chatty Cathy comment too.

So what is my commentary on these items? Well #1 - the NS SPCA has left key positions unfilled for the last several years and they acknowledge that they've done this because they say they want to save money so that they can spend the money directly on the animals. But I would like to submit that sometimes you have to SPEND money to MAKE money. Throughout the whole meeting on Saturday (and I've listened to just about the whole tape now, Pam Keddy kept going on about how everything takes so long to do, that's there's no time to DO anything. Well maybe because that's because there's not enough PEOPLE to do it? If they invested in the manpower that they need, then they would have the resources to get the work done, then they would make more money - then they would help the animals. In my job for instance. I do billings that pay for my job. And then some. It's pretty simple. It's not rocket science. You generate revenue by having more people so that you can have more people. It's pretty basic business practice. I really don't know why someone hasn't pointed this out to the NS SPCA before. Especially since there seems to be business people on the board. If you want to run a shitty corporation you're
going to have a shitty corporation.

So that's what I get when I hear things like they haven't filled a CEO's position.

When you look at successful shelters - and you see that they have nice buildings, and successful looking staff members, and paid employees - it's probably because they enjoy their jobs and people can treat those jobs like careers and be taken seriously and it doesn't have to be a volunteer position - then you'll get some committed individuals.

Another comment here is that Mr. Degen is saying about this report is that - it's a biased report bought by the HRM so that they can take over Animal Control all to themselves. That's what he told this audience so that they'd shut up. It's my understanding that this was an unbiased outside consultants report, was it not? So why was Mr. Degen telling this audience something else? He actually said - "that
is a report, that is a paid for report by HRM - a strategic move to allow them to take over Animal Control". Why would he tell 130 or so members of the NS SPCA that? So that we could feel better about the HRM taking the contract away from the SPCA? They were going to do it anyway? I don't know. But that's what he said.


Here's another section of the meeting when the vote of "confidence" was held:

"It's a motion of support for the board." "Correct." "Confidence in the Board." "Everybody stood up at the beginning of the meeting and let themselves be known."

A person in the audience says – "I'd like clarification please, I'm not sure what we're voting on – are we voting that we don't have confidence in the board, and if so that we don't have confidence in the board and if so, does that mean that we vote on a new board?"
Terry says" No, you know the irony of this? According to Roberts Rules of Order, you can say you have no confidence in the Board and they stay! They stay because it's their problem to deal with! They'll have to decide if they want to resign or not. So, you need an election year to have a coup, okay?. So that's what you needed. Robert's Rules. Love it. I love dissent. So you'll have learned a lot today, that you never would have had in any other forum, You did more creatively today than any blog."

Someone asks – "can you abstain from the vote?" And Terry says – "oh sure, that's why we're having a standing vote – you can just sit." And the lady asks – "you're not going to vote, are you?" and Terry says – "Oh God no – I'm not a member – you need someone who isn't a member, so they won't be biased" (everybody in the crowd guffawed and whistled at that statement).

So here's my commentary on that - the vote was won by a vote of 81 to 47 or something like that. How do we know how many of those 81 people were actually people abstaining, and now actually voting for confidence? Doesn't that mean anything to anyone?

And if it was a members only meeting - why WAS Mr. Degen allowed in?

That's enough for now, I'm sure no one's read down this far anyway! But if you have, here's the press release from the NS SPCA today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The Nova Scotia SPCA Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Saturday April 26, 2008 had a motion of confidence in its current board approved by a decisive majority vote.

The NS SPCA Executive belie ves that criticism or dissension is in effect beneficial as it expresses the differing opinions that some members might hold and reflects a need for the SPCA to better communicate the objectives and work of the SPCA. However, given that the SPCA deals with confidential details involving investigations and other information, some information is not available to the general public. The SPCA has to comply with the same Privacy Legislation as
that of other Canadian organizations. This has caused concern from our members who simply want to know more details of our on-going activities.

While the SPCA is not able to provide confidential information, the SPCA has recently formed a Provincial education committee who will soon be publishing an online newsletter. Upon review and reflection from the Board, this newsletter will act as the avenue with which to update all our members and the Nova Scotia public to the extent that is possible. To this effect, several initiatives will be put in place
to improve communications, increase transparency and create positive changes within the organization. The SPCA has always been focused on helping animals but so too needs to focus on satisfying our members at large.

In addition to the Board's commitment to improve transparency, conversations between the Board and representatives from the Department of Agriculture offer hope of assistance in alleviating some of the communication problems of late. These discussions have led the SPCA to believe that the Department of Agriculture will be able to provide increased support in the future.

The SPCA differs from most other Societies in that it was incorporated by an Act of Legislature to enforce the Nova Scotia Animal Cruel Prevention Act, and in such, does not register as a Society under the Registry of Joint Stock Companies. According to the current president, Pamela Keddy, "The mandate of the SPCA is the prevention and investigation of cruelty towards domesticated animals. The SPCA is not
a protest or lobby group. The main premise is, and continues to be, animal cruelty and, with its limited resources, all its efforts are put forth to fulfilling that requirement and ultimately to help the animals on Nova Scotia. But in doing, so we will strive to provide updates to our members where we can."

Keddy states: "In 2007, 942 cruelty cases and 13 agricultural complaints were investigated, a number that is on par with the previous and which proves the continued need for the work of the Society. In addition, the total number of animals assisted via the SPCA increased last year from approximately 7000 in 2006 to over 7500 (based upon animal statistics provided by 7 of the 11 branches) in 2007. It is obvious by these numbers that the SPCA is doing its work of assisting animals." All these animals were assisted through the combined efforts of the volunteer Board, limited paid staff of the Provincial office and shelter, and the many volunteers province wide that assist as Special Constables, fundraisers, and with direct animal
care and assistance.

Further evidence of recent SPCA success, was seen in the financial statements presented at the annual general meeting. Two years ago the Society operated at a $180,000 loss, one year ago at $120,000 and last year, with the combined efforts of both Provincial and Metro Shelter it almost broke even. For a charity to increase its financial position by this much in such a short amount of time is an amazing feat.

The Society has 11 objects listed in its Constitution, all of which are undertaken in varying degrees based upon the resources at hand. At the AGM, Keddy stated that given the very limited size of the NS SPCA and its available resources as compared to larger richer SPCAs such as Ontario and BC that the Nova Scotia operation has been very successful in helping animals province wide. The NS SPCA is operated by public donation and a $3000 grant from the Department of Agriculture.

The NS SPCA regrets that the negative comments expressed by individuals who are not supportive of the current Board may affect the wonderful efforts of the volunteer fundraisers and the donation stream. However, the Board is hopeful that by working to make positive changes for the SPCA members that the Board and all its staff and
volunteers can return to doing what they do best in helping and saving animals.

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