Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Theatre of the Absurd, aka Toronto Humane Society AGM

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.


Fred said...

Laugh at the humans. Cry for the animals.

Anonymous said...

Social Mange, I never realized you had your own blog. I recall reading comments from someone on the Save the THS protest group blogsite. Thank-you very much for attending and reporting about the THS AGM, the links to other descriptions in blogs, and the two newspaper articles. I suggest everyone read the 2006Investigator's Group report to the OSPCA Inspector Draper, leaked to the Globe and Mail and posted on their site (it was taken down, but not before it was copied). The first 30 pages will suffice to understand the deep problems of the THS. Their is abject, willfull and negectful, animal cruelty, harassment, intimidation, and various criminal activities, endangering the public and worker safety. There is also suggestions of Trow and board members spending over $300,000 on litigation, hiring friends and families for outrageous fees as consultants, fundraising improprieties like spending hundreds of thousands to make $20,000, complete comand and control by Trow and Hambley with no oversight, uttering false statements and documents and various other frauds.
It basically shows that the OSPCA was negligent in not persuing criminal charges, the OPGT negligent in not doing an audit (or if they did, doing a perfunctory audit) and the CRA for not persuing this and the MNR for not persuing this - assuming, of course, the the Investigator's Group and the OSPCA actually released their findings and evidence to these organizations.
I really hope their are ammendments to the corporations act, so that charities do not breach the public trust and, indeed, as appears to be with respect to the THS, become a organization that is a criminal enterprise. Public tax breaks to charities, claims of doing charitable works, require audited evidence open to everyone - the least of whom is members of these non-share-capital corporations. It is outrageous that they should not have their financial statements available to members, or posted on their website. At the very least they ought to post the auditor's report. I suggest that they are not audited at all. They should have their by-laws and letters of patent and patent supplementary posted, the minutes of Board and Executive meetings posted, unexpeurgated animal statistics, position statements, and so many other things rather then the fluff and nonsense and lies and deceit on their website. I don't care that Tre got married, show me the money!
That lady, whom you mention, who compared Linda McKinnon to Hitler was Merlin Andrew. She is a despicable human being for saying that, but I am happy it was heard and confirmed so that we got a little glimpse of her decietful and criminal tactics these charlatans who fraudulently take on the mantle of animal lovers. In Ontario Public Guardian v. Toronto Humane Society (1987) she was forced by the Judge to retire, to not be renumerated for being a trustee (director) and to not engage in political activity which takes a substantial part of the organization ($255,000 and personnel and time and space). She served with Trow, I believe as a board member in the 1980's when he was very forcefully persuaded to retire after proven animal abuse (OVMA study), over a million dollars in money was unaccounted for, indiscriminate firing, etc... Oh yeah, and Bob Hambley was his right hand man then to.

Social Mange said...

Anonymous, do you have a link to the 1987 court decision?

Cathy said...

The description of the 1987 case can be found at: (pp. 112-113) and