To The Editor:
Silence is not always golden. It is often used to hide facts; to not admit something; or in court the Fifth Amendment so as not to incriminate oneself. Politicians and officials at all levels of government use silence to avoid probing questions, and when silence is used it only raises more questions. That is what I am addressing in this letter, whereby it involves the St. Lawrence Valley SPCA.
On April 19 I wrote a letter to the address given for the SPCA since there was no contact name. Four questions were submitted, but I shall only refer to three as one was of a personal nature. No response. Eventually I was told indirectly that the letter was handled by a Debby Mitchell. I wrote to Ingrid Baltradis on May 21 and included a copy of my original letter from April. No response. Eventually I found out the name of the president of the SPCA Board of Directors, Karen Cunningham. I wrote to her on June 18 and included a copy of my original letter. As of this date no response has materialized. This is baffling. One of my questions was about their website and why it did not list the names of the board of directors members. It speaks about two full-time employees, but no names. They do not have an email address. Contrast this to the website of the Potsdam Humane Society. They have a great website and it does list the names of the board of directors. I have never been to the Potsdam facility, so am only addressing websites. The Jefferson County Humane Society has an email address for its director.
The second question was about a plaque that had been on the wall for many years. It was a Howland plaque. It has mysteriously disappeared, and when I asked the full-time attendant, only vague answers were forthcoming. The website history section speaks to some 10 directors (no names) in the beginning. My aunt and uncle, Homer and Mickey Howland, were integral to the formation, acquisition and building of the SPCA. Mickey, along with Mrs. John Tyo, actually mixed cement for blocks that separated dog cages. They used hammer and saw along with a few others. When the UF cut the then $2,650 down to $2,000, they still didnt give up even though at that time the UF refused to allow them to have their Christmas Tag Day. They struggled to maintain the facility even when the UF decided to drop them as a partner agency. At one point it was felt the facility would have to be closed due to lack of funds. Eventually the city of Ogdensburg came through with a contract with specific funds allocated each year. There is more to the history of the facility than one reads on their website.
The SPCA website speaks to contracts with three municipalities, but does not name them or the amount of money allocated by each contract. Since they are a nonprofit facility there should be an accounting of how the public money is spent. This year the city of Ogdensburg allocated $22,500 to the SPCA. A copy of the Ogdensburg contract was sent to me and the only specification is that the city maintain a list of seized dogs. There are specifics as to the disposition of impounded dogs. Nothing in the contract speaks to how the allocation of funds from the city is determined or if the amount is not used how this would impact the next years allocation. Nothing in the contract speaks to an itemized account of spending said funds.
The third question refers to a $75,000 bequest from an estate. I asked why it had not been publicized and what was done with the money. No answer. Almost weekly we read about donations made to various charities, foundations, etc. The donor is named unless there is a stipulation to not identify the donor. According to my source, there was no such stipulation in this instance. Look at the Potsdam website and see how they honor those who have left money from estates, etc. Wood plaques are made by someone locally. The plaques have a paw print on them and some have photos of the donors. When large donations are made, its often a company or by some power name. Donors who want immortality often get their names on buildings, streets, etc. In this case the deceased donor was someone most probably never heard of, Madeline Gladle. She loved animals, especially her dog. She was extremely frugal and a very loyal friend to those who did not betray her. My aunt Mickey and Madeline were acquaintances for decades and shared the love of animals. She also left close to a $100,000 bequest for Hospice and, as far as I know, there has been no public acknowledgement. She left a large sum to the Black Lake Galilee Church, and they had the courtesy of acknowledging the gift, as it helped pay off their mortgage. They were very grateful to this woman. I can only speculate as to the reasons for the SPCA not publicly acknowledging her generous donation. The money was to be used specifically for the feeding and care of animals, and not for euthanizing. How does one know just how the money is handled? This is a nonprofit facility, and it would seem they must be accountable as to the disposition of funds. What is the problem with naming the board of directors on the website?
My questions and the lack of response from the SPCA must not discourage people from donating. The animals cannot respond, but if they had a voice I suspect they would speak up, unlike their administrators. They would be extremely appreciative of the dedicated volunteers who physically care for them. There needs to be some modicum of transparency.