I attended the Toronto Humane Society annual members' meeting on September 30th. The behaviour of THS management was so bad, I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry.
This is an organization with $9.3M in revenue ($12.2M in the 2007 financial year) that appears to be run worse than a corner store.
Typographical error in the agenda referring to approval of minutes of the 2009 annual general meeting. Duh. Did no one proof read the agenda before it went out?
No explanation for a $3 million drop in revenue. One-quarter of its revenue disappears, and the President has no comment.
Management displayed almost no knowledge of (or refused to discuss?) simple financial, corporate governance and business matters.
No chief financial officer.
No separation of the offices of Chair and President (the de facto CEO).
No succession plan. Very scary considering the ages of the President and Secretary.
Secretary used a patronizing tone towards members when they asked questions and never clearly answered the questions.
Secretary said he didn't know where to get a copy of the THS investment policy. Isn't the Secretary supposed to be the "keeper of records" for the organization?
Linda MacKinnon's name was not on the THS form of proxy. I believe her candidacy was announced well in advance of the AGM mailing; her name should have been on the proxy. All proxies then invalid?
Running of the meeting and voting process abdicated by the Secretary and taken over by the scrutineer. Improperly run and invalid meeting?
Ballot for election of directors improperly prepared (and may be invalid, that's a good question for the lawyers. Wait, no, the THS will squander more donations on lawyers).
President never clearly answered whether the management candidates were being presented for election as a slate or individually.
The only management candidate for election who introduced herself to the meeting was forgettable. Couldn't even tell you what she said. None of the other management candidates spoke, none of the current directors introduced themselves to the meeting.
President never provided the criteria used to select the management candidates. Biographies provided were insufficient to determine whether the management candidates brought appropriate business, legal or financial expertise to the table.
President couldn't (or wouldn't) answer a question about the organizational structure, who makes final decisions.
President couldn't (or wouldn't) answer how much had been spent on litigation, said that the costs were spread over three accounts (?), and then proceeded to say that court actions for labour issues, small claims court matters and other legal expenses were not litigation. Huh? Last time I looked, anything that goes to court is litigation.
Auditors didn't attend to answer questions about the financial statements.
President's report was all "puppies and kittens" emotion; no facts about operation of the business, no strategy report, no planning, nada.
President stated that all animals adopted out by THS are speutered. This was refuted by more than one person. Update - On Oct 7/09, over 50 unaltered cats are offered for adoption on the THS website. These are adult cats, not kittens, that should be speutered before being offered for adoption.
President continually made statements to the effect "that's the way it's always been".
Any questions about the 2006 Draper report (read Kate Hammer's article in the September 30th Globe & Mail) and more recent allegations (by different people) were answered with the refrain "lies, dammable lies". Personally, I think that the amount of smoke going up indicates a serious fire.
Tempers flared on all sides, but the display of temper by Ian McConachie, the THS communications person, towards a visibly upset member and caring former foster parent was absolutely unprofessional and unforgiveable. In a properly managed business, he'd be shown the door. At the least, there should be a public apology from THS for his behaviour. Interesting that the Toronto Star article (link below) mentions that McConachie was caught uttering untruths to the Star this summer.
Management's behaviour at this meeting left me wondering whether they're incompetent or hiding something. All the "I dunnos", "it's always been that way", refusing to answer simple business questions, the emotional ploys, no business explanations, the tantrums...
THS is an organization in crisis and will continue to be in crisis until it implodes, if the current board and management stay in place. The only ones who will suffer will be the animals, as they have suffered and will continue to suffer despite all the "puppies and kittens" speeches proferred.
IMNSHO, the Toronto Humane Society is no longer about animal welfare. Shut it down, show everyone the door, and let's start fresh.
More later. I have to go laugh. Or cry. Or vomit.
Addendum: One Bark At A Time is just as angry as I am about the THS nonsense. OBAAT has a good point about the uninformed and uncaring members being part of the problem. I, of course, question why a 100-year-old animal welfare organization in the largest city in Canada only has about 2700 members, according to the numbers given at the AGM.
The THS Protest Group has a very reasoned dissection of the sordid affair.
Good articles by Kate Hammer of the Globe & Mail and by Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star about the meeting.
Apparently THS charged Linda MacKinnon $400 for the membership list. That is outrageous.
On afterthought, Linda MacKinnon should send THS a letter threatening to sue for slander for the comment of a member at the meeting. This would be a nice retaliation for THS threatening Toronto Cat Rescue when one of its volunteers, as a private citizen and not as a TCR representative, said "Trow Must Go!".
I am told by several people that the membership section of the THS website is still missing in action. I guess that's how you run a democratic organization and invite the public to participate - shut down memberships *rolling eyes*. Update - On Oct 3/09 the membership section of the site is still disabled. Further Update - On Oct 7/09 the membership section of the site is STILL disabled. Further Update - Oct 13/09, membership section STILL disabled.
The website, incidentally, carries absolutely no information about the board or the officers. More secret society/need a decoder ring nonsense?
Ontario is considering a new Corporations Act to govern not-for-profit organizations. It should be modelled after the securities legislation with greater requirements for disclosure of every kind. I would like to see any not-for-profit paying salaries be required to disclose the individual salaries of the top five highest paid executives/employees and that the President be included regardless of whether the position's salary falls within the top five. Include all perqs such as executive cars, travel, etc. Also set out all compensation paid to directors, whether cash or in-kind; director's fees, reimbursement for travel, perqs, etc. Legal costs should be clearly set out, as should any monies paid to marketing or other agencies for fundraising. Also set out directors' attendance at meetings, so members know whether a director is failing in his or her duty.
Transparency is key to trust, and Toronto Humane Society is failing badly on transparency.