by Merritt Clifton
DETROIT––Humane Society of the U.S. vice president for investigations David Wills, founder of the short-lived National Society for Animal Protection before assuming his present post, is accused of failing to repay NSAP-related loans totaling $57,411 in cash and valuables in separate lawsuits filed by William and Judith McBride, of Ortonville, Michigan, and Sandra LeBost, of Royal Oak, Michigan.
LeBost, a longtime Michigan Humane Society volunteer, met Wills while he was MHS executive director, 1979-1989. On June 15, 1989, Wills proposed to the MHS board of directors that they should form a “National Center for Animal Protection” along similar lines to the NSAP. However, Wills resigned just four days later, together with four board members, after the discovery of an unexplained million-dollar deficit. Wills claimed that key documents bearing his signature were forged. Denise Hopkins, then MHS bookkeeper, was eventually convicted of embezzling the missing funds, and is reportedly now near the end of her prison term.
Wills went on to incorporate the NSAP on his own, in August 1989, along with the Faunae Corporation, which was to produce wildlife-related goods for sale to benefit the NSAP. Between November 16, 1989, and March 9, 1991, LeBost contends, she loaned Wills $28,311 in cash plus her father’s antique watch, worth an estimated $10,000, in the belief that she was assisting the NSAP, and would be repaid.
Wills holds that the watch was a gift and that in each case of accepting money, he “was fraudulently induced by plaintiff’s representations regarding the nature of the ‘loan’.” In a countersuit, Wills alleges that LeBost mishandled a trust fund opened in July 1990, and argues that she “made representations to counter-plaintiff she had no intent of receiving repayment of said sums from counter-plaintiff.”
The McBrides say they loaned Wills $20,000 in May and July 1991, to be used in producing merchandise for sale to benefit NSAP, under the name the Faunae Corporation, also with the understanding that they would be repaid. They hold that Wills was “unjustly enriched by obtaining and using not only the $20,000,” they put up, “but also by personally using large sums of money which Wills obtained from others by promising to use that money for the protection of wildlife and the environment.”
Wills contends the McBrides’ funds were entrusted to him not as a loan, but as an investment, and denies having made improper use of either this money or any monies received.
NSAP filed several lawsuits in opposition to bear hunting and on behalf of sea otters involved in research to determine the extent of damage done by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, but became dormant after Wills joined HSUS.