Niagara Gazette

Local News

March 11, 2013

No-kill activists file suit to dump SPCA reform board

Niagara Gazette — A trio of no-kill activists are suing the SPCA of Niagara, claiming the nonprofit animal welfare agency’s reorganization is illegal.

Three dues-paying members, Carol Tutzauer of Wilson and Ellen Reese and Clara Miller of Erie County, have filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court seeking to have the May 2012 election of board members, and changes in the bylaws made by that board, invalidated. They’re further seeking a court-supervised annual membership meeting for the purpose of getting a new board elected.

The suit is prompted by the recent discovery that the SPCA has raised its annual “full” membership fee to $1,000 from $25. Only full members have voting privileges at the organization’s annual meeting, according to the SPCA’s website.

Buffalo attorney Peter Reese, whose wife is one of the complainants, charged the current board is trying to “dump” dues-paying members, a number of whom are no-kill enthusiasts who joined the organization a year ago in the midst of a euthanasia scandal.

With the membership fee increase, Reese said, “they’ve declared all-out war on the members. ... The supreme body (of the SPCA) is the members and this board has decided to run away with it.”

Board trustees aren’t saying too much about raising the SPCA’s voting-membership fee in light of the pending litigation, but trustee/board spokesman Lawrence Eggert did suggest it passed muster with the agency’s new legal counsel, which includes an attorney who specializes in non-profit organization. Few if any non-profits in the area are run by dues-paying members, as that model doesn’t produce needed stability, he said.

Relations between the activists and the trustees clearly have soured. 

Reese said he’s fully aware that one or more trustees are saying he tried making his family’s continued monthly pledge to SPCA conditional on him being appointed board president, and Tutzauer being named executive director of the operation. He denied both claims vehemently, calling them “defamatory.”

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