by Merritt Clifton
(From Animal People, October 1995)
WASHINGTON, D.C.––Humane Society of the United States executive vice president Patricia Forkan is to assume authority over HSUS domestic operations effective on January 1, 1996. HSUS president Paul Irwin, now heading domestic operations, will move over to head the umbrella organization, Humane Society International, while current HSI president John Hoyt, 65, will serve as vice president until he retires in May, officially for health reasons.
Former HSUS vice president for investigations and legislation David Wills, Hoyt’s longtime protege and onetime chosen successor, was formally terminated on October 14, two months after he was officially placed on administrative leave, and was in fact fired, in so many words, according to a very highly placed informant. HSUS has also sued Wills, seeking the recovery of funds believed to be about $16,500 allegedly misappropriated to his personal use.
In a peripherally related personnel move indicating the changing HSUS corporate culture, Forkan confidante Martha Armstrong has been named vice president for companion animals, succeeding Ken White, who left last spring to head the Arizona Humane Society. Armstrong, longtime Massachusetts SPCA director of humane education and legislation, previously headed shelters in Oakland, California, and Tennessee.
Only 18 months earlier, in mid-1994, Animal People received leaked confidential memos indicating that other HSUS senior executives were attempting to force Forkan out of HSUS by transferring many of her longtime duties to Wills and lobbyists Wayne Pacelle, Bill Long, and Aaron Medlock, whom Wills recruited from the Fund for Animals. Some of Forkan’s staff were urged to retire.
Virtually raised in an upstate New York animal shelter still directed by her mother, Forkan served as executive director of the Fund in the 1970s, prior to joining HSUS.
The changes at HSUS have so far not lifted Hoyt’s interdict on staff communications with Animal People, imposed against editor Merritt Clifton since October 1988 when Clifton, then news editor for Animals Agenda, asked Hoyt and Irwin to comment on a Jack Anderson expose of how HSUS purchased a house for Hoyt’s use and loaned Irwin funds with which to buy vacation property in Maine. Our questions about the recent and impending changes went officially unanswered. Forkan and HSUS chief legal counsel Roger Kindler reportedly told other people with similar questions that our reconstruction of the changes from leaked information, as reported in our November 1995 edition, was inaccurate and not even close to what actually happened.
But they apparently supplied no specifics. Other accounts suggest the alleged “inaccuracies” are more matters of perspective than substance: did Forkan merely inherit authority, or ascend by having her hands clean? Is Hoyt retiring on schedule, or is he being discreetly ousted? Is Irwin now the big boss, or has he been kicked upstairs?
Is it real, or is it color, and do even their hairdressers know for sure?
Twist and shout
We do know for sure that the November installment of the ongoing HSUS/David Wills soap opera was barely into the mail before new information made it obsolete, beginning with the return––unopened––of the package of 25 copies of our October edition that an anonymous caller ordered for courier delivery to the Columbus Day weekend HSUS board meeting in Seattle. The caller, who was not board member Anita Coupe, asked that the copies be sent to Coupe’s room. The weirdest twist was that the invoice, the amount of which was not mentioned to the caller, was enclosed in the package, and was earlier paid by a U.S. postal money order made out on behalf of B. True.
The plot twisted again, like it did last summer, when at midnight on Halloween the Washington Humane Society’s contract to provide animal control service to Washington D.C. expired. A newly formed organization called Animal Link took over, and within hours a private investigator tracking Wills found him answering the telephones at the Washington D.C. city shelter, apparently performing the duties of an executive director as an ostensible volunteer.
For much of this year, Wills and his former Detroit associate Deday LaRene, whom he hired at HSUS, negotiated with Washington D.C. over possibly taking on the animal control contract as an HSUS project. That proposed deal fell through, HSUS announced, on September 18, 1995. Officially the problem was that HSUS wanted the deed, free and clear, to the proposed site of a new shelter it planned to build but Washington D.C. only leased the land in question from the federal government, and was not in a position to turn over the deed.
Unofficially, the problem was that it was Wills’ deal, undertaken at least in part to impress his fiance, former Washington Humane Society animal fostering volunteer Lori White (whom he married in June in Mexico, at a ceremony conducted by Irwin, an ordained minister). With Wills on his way out at HSUS, no one else really wanted the potential expense and embarrassment that could go with running animal control in a nearly bankrupt city that owed the previous contractor more than $400,000, against annual operating costs of $770,000.
Wills, though, needed a job and as executive director of the Michigan Humane Society from 1978 until mid-1989, he had experience at fundraising in a similar milieu, though about $1.6 million of the funds he raised eventually disappeared, leading to his resignation under fire. [Details appeared in “A whale of a tale from inside HSUS, together with details of LaRene’s alleged underworld links, in the October 1995 edition of Animal People.] The WHS withdrawal from animal control left an opportunity open, and Wills and White already had contact with other people willing to form a board of directors: Dee Atwell, identified as a Department of Commerce employee, who told one reporter her qualifications were twenty years with golden setters ; Phyllis Horowitz, a former WHS volunteer who was dismissed as a purported source of friction with staff; and Gerald Eichinger, DVM, a onetime WHS veterinary staffer who left to form his own practice, returned as a volunteer, was dismissed at the same time as Horowitz, and was remembered by other Washington D.C.-area animal rescuers for having denounced the WHS administration to media.
Assembling Animal Link virtually overnight, the group won a 50-day contract with the city by outbidding a coalition put together on short notice by Sharon Smith, DVM, according to WHS executive director Mary Healy. The most financially stable humane organization in the area, the Washington Animal Rescue League, remained uninvolved. Persons familiar with WARL affairs told Animal People that the WARL longterm plan, backed by assets of as much as $10 million, involves completing a low-cost neutering clinic now under construction and perhaps adding a high-volume adoption center projects which could be jeopardized by the extra burdens coming with an animal control contract.
The 50-day interim contract expires December 20, 1995. Washington D.C. Department of Human Services acting director Vernon Hawkins said a longterm contractor would be chosen meanwhile through competitive bidding. Lacking time to obtain nonprofit status, Animal Link is trying to finance operations and put itself in position to secure the longterm contract by soliciting donations via a special bank account opened for it by Animal Allies, a cat rescue group headed by Elaine Miletta of Fairfax, Virginia, with a 92-cat care-for-life shelter in Culpepper, Virginia.
The personalities and arrangements soon drew the attention of Washington D.C. media, as did problems at the shelter that began almost immediately. With only Wills, Eichinger, and one former WHS technician qualified to perform euthanasia, compared with eight euthanasia technicians on staff when WHS ran the shelter, Animal Link reportedly tried to teach volunteers the procedure in haste, with awkward results. Due to short staffing, Wills is supposed to have asked volunteers to work eight-hour shifts, getting few takers. On November 10, 1995 Wills and White purportedly walked out and back in through a side door. On November 15, 1995 paid staff walked out because they didn’t get paid, but Atwell told media that an anonymous contribution of $4,000 saved the day. There was also a flap mentioned by some D.C. media when a volunteer left alone to work a night shift instead locked the doors and went home.
Catching heavy flak, Wills formally addressed the media on November 16, 1995 at the National Press Club––but mostly about HSUS, rather than Animal Link. “I was recently abruptly terminated for my failure to cooperate in responding to a series of malicious and false allegations against me raised by three former PETA employees now working at HSUS,” Wills asserted, referring to three HSUS staffers who in August filed a sexual harassment complaint against Wills with the U.S Equal Opportunity Commission. Only one of the three, so far as Animal People can determine, is a former PETA employee.
“PETA is by their own admission a radical animal rights organization,” Wills continued. “I believe I have become a pawn in a struggle for power and money both within HSUS and between competing animal rights organizations. HSUS is doing everything in its power to silence me, including filing a civil lawsuit against me. I was even advised by my health insurance company that HSUS had tried to cancel health insurance for myself and my nine-year-old son with asthma,” an apparent reference to White’s son by a previous marriage.
“I myself am under a doctor’s care for a medical condition which I contracted while on a mission for the Society in Indonesia,” Wills said. “Make no mistake: when it comes to the treatment of people, the word ‘humane’ does not apply to HSUS.”
Wills complained that HSUS, “with assets of over $50 million, does not help or support the D.C. animal shelter, which is in danger of closing from lack of funds. The salaries and lifestyles of top executives at HSUS I agree are outrageous,” he added, “but that is not my salary or my lifestyle. If money is missing from the Humane Society ledgers, they should look elsewhere for it. The allegations which have been raised against me are false,” Wills insisted, adding that instead of hearing his side of the various matters, “HSUS has responded with a summons in a civil action. I am in the process with my attorneys of preparing a defense and countersuit in several forums that I assure you will reach the highest levels of the Humane Society s management. I am confident,” Wills embellished, “that I will be vindicated in the courts, but in that process many of the confidential informants who have assisted my investigations into animal rights abuses may be compromised or their lives endangered.”
Concluded Wills, “People who care about animals should look closely where they donate their hard-earned dollars, and make sure the money is going to the animals and not to permit top executives to lead the lifestyles of the rich and famous.”
Wills, known for his Porsche 944, love of nightlife, and reputed $100,000 salary at Michigan Humane, made $93,000 a year in salary and benefits at HSUS.
Indeed, the lifestyles and activities of HSUS executives Wills included have attracted the attention of many investigators in recent months. California deputy attorney general Peter Schack tersely confirmed that his office is actively reviewing HSUS financial filings and witness depositions, but explained that he is not allowed to discuss any case that might be in preparation.
A small army of private detectives and researchers were more forthcoming, calling, faxing, and e-mailing to introduce themselves and share tips. Three work for competing mass media. One represents a personal debtor. Four work for other major animal protection groups. And one Simon Ward of Zimbabwe Trust readily admitted interests directly opposed to those of the humane movement, having previously worked a decade for the Japanese whaling industry, and was willing to be quoted. Ward described his employer as “a non-governmental organization in an African country, which has come under fierce attack from, among others, HSUS, for selling hunting licenses to groups such as Safari Club International. I have been instructed,” Ward admitted, “to gather any and all information I can that may be used to discredit HSUS.”
Ward established that the Paul Irwin associated with the Pennsylvania Trust, a major private bank, is not the same person as the Paul Irwin of HSUS as Animal People suspected, in reporting in October an allegation from a Capitol Hill source that Paul Irwin of HSUS is involved in private banking, a form of financial dealing with no accountability to the general public.
“Paul Irwin of HSUS is rumored to be involved in private banking in some way,” Ward confirmed. “However, research confirmed only that he was involved, having been listed in Moody s Banking Directory several years ago as one of the directors of the Theodore Roosevelt National Bank. In the current edition of Moody’s,” Ward added, “this bank is no longer listed, and the telephone has been disconnected. The last listing of the bank gave its address as 1201 New York Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. It is assumed it was a private bank because its total assets were just $13-14 million. In this regard,” Ward suggested, “a possible clue appears in HSUS News, fall 1995, in the section dedicated to news from the HSUS affiliate Earthkind. An article on ecotourism begins with a reference to one Tweed Roosevelt, but makes no connection between him and HSUS, nor gives any explanation why his views should appear.”
HSUS News identified Tweed Roosevelt as spokesman for sustainable tourism, president of the Roosevelt Education Foundation, and the great-grandson of Theodore Roosevelt.