In the weeks since the resignation of several key people who took care of business at the local SPCA, silence has prevailed at the organization’s head office, says Michael Fazakas.
Fazakas is the former chair of the local organization’s community council. He and seven council members quit their positions within a two week span in March after the local shelter’s general manager Angela McLaren and contract fundraiser Andrea Sowers both resigned.
Both former employees pointed to bullying in the workplace as the main reason behind their decision to leave. McLaren told the Free Press in March her own working conditions were made intolerable by the alleged behaviour of another employee. She said that after being on stress leave for several weeks, she’d decided, especially in light of her pregnancy, to resign rather than return to the workplace.
On Tuesday, Fazakas said he was surprised that no one from head office has contacted him for comment or clarification on the situation that led up to the departures.
“There has been absolutely no contact with head office in over a month and it seems to me they should at least give the chair (person) a phone call to find out what has been going on. But that didn’t happen at all. The only comment I heard came from there is that they don’t want to be involved. But I disagree. When it gets to this point, the actual board that votes on bylaws and so on, should get involved. It’s gone way beyond anything that could be handled at the local level.”
Fazakas said the community council originally had 10 members.
That number was reduced to eight, then there were none.
“As of last year’s AGM, I had two resignations over work scheduling that had nothing to do with the current situation. All eight (remaining council members) basically resigned once we found out what was going on so in a span of two weeks, they all resigned.”
Citing the local SPCA’s often troubled and tumultuous history with various problems preventing them from operating at their optimum, Fazakas said this incident is “not isolated.” Rather it is just the latest round of issues and so it is unlikely – unless the situation that led to the departures is remedied – that he or some of the other council members would return.
“The entire community council resigned in support of us [she and Sowers] and several volunteers also walked out of the shelter.”
McLaren said walking away from the SPCA was not easy for her in part because of the tremendous progress that had been made in recent years.
New policies and procedures limiting the number of animal intakes were making an impact with pet owners, she said, and the shelter’s animal fostering program was also making headway.
During her four-year tenure, many improvements had been made, she said.
“I think pet owners were learning to be more responsible. We did a controlled intake of animals so that we wouldn’t have overcrowding issues with healthy animals getting sick. For example, when we were full, we turned away some people who had litters of kittens. So there were fewer animals for people to pick from and that was about re-educating the public.”
Far fewer animals were being euthanized than in previous years, she said.
“When I left there was no branch manager, no fundraising manager and then no community council,” she said. “That should tell them something was wrong.”
One month later, not much has changed.
“I am completely and utterly unhappy with the way things went down,” said Fazakas. “We’ve had no contact, it seems to me this is the way it goes: ‘Let’s not make a comment until it all blows over.’ I would have expected them to at least phone the Chair (person) and find out what’s going on but that didn’t happen.”
Does Fazakas feel ignored?
“You bet I do,” he said.
The BC SPCA did not return phone calls from the Free Press by Thursday.