SAN RAFAEL, California––Four executive directors and founder Elliot Katz have left the top management position at In Defense of Animals since 2009. Joe Haptas, the IDA executive director since July 2012, was suspended by the board on February 9, 2013, and responded on February 12, 2013 by demanding the resignations by 6:00 p.m. of the entire board of directors––Natalie Kaminki, attorney Michael Yadegari, and Marilyn Kroplick, the child and geriatric psychiatrist who has served as board president since November 2011.
“Failing that,” Haptas told the board in an e-mail shared with IDA staff, “I will deliver to the California Attorney General extensive, damning and just plain embarrassing evidence that I have documented and gathered.”
Apparently responding to an extensive complaint sent to California attorney general Kamala D. Harris by former IDA board member Lori Hyland, representatives of the California attorney general’s office visited the IDA offices on June 13, 2012 to collect relevant documents.
When Kaminki, Yadegari, and Kroplick did not resign, Haptas on February 13, 2013 again asked Kaminki and Yadegari to resign, attaching a copy of a letter he had drafted to California deputy attorney general Scott Chan, outlining his complaints.
“The writing is on the wall. You are on the Titanic,” Haptas said. “If you don’t respond and do the right thing, this is going to a wide audience. Please get back to me by 7:00 p.m.”
After the IDA board again “did not acknowledge my communication,” Haptas e-mailed to staff members on the morning of February 14, 2013, “I went to the California Attorney General per the board crisis at IDA. These people are not animal protection advocates,” Haptas alleged.
“They aren’t vegetarian. The president has told me she believes in animal research on the ‘lesser’ (or similar word) animals. The treasurer buys meat on the IDA credit card when he travels…I’d like you to call for their resignations from the board as well,” Haptas asked.
ANIMALS 24-7 is unaware that any IDA staff members joined Haptas in seeking the resignation of the board.
Haptas sent his first appeal for the IDA board to resign to IDA staff on February 12, 2013 along with a 1,300-word statement including about 335 words acknowledging that a sexual harassment complaint had been made against him and denying the allegation.
“I have done absolutely nothing wrong,” Haptas said, “though my entire professional reputation and career is on the line. I have from day one insisted on a line of separation from staff.”
“Although he criticizes the complaining staff member for ‘break[ing] confidentiality’ about that claim, he appears to be doing the very same thing,” Kroplick responded to staff on behalf of the IDA board on February 13, 2013.
Kroplick’s 459-word response only abstractly addressed the larger part of Haptas’ e-mail to IDA staff and almost the entirety of his 8,750-word complaint to Scott Chan. The latter included extensive notes Haptas said were from his telephone call log and copies of numerous e-mails that Haptas said he had sent to the IDA board members.
Alleged Haptas, “There is no basic governance and compliance in place. I have no idea what the president, secretary and treasurer actually do…Same goes for their responsibilities as board members. I have never been on a call with the board. They don’t acknowledge my monthly reports. They don’t acknowledge my summaries of the monthly financials. Two of the three hold credit cards [billed to IDA] and use them, which has put me in very uncomfortable positions in having to address their usage.”
The e-mails Haptas said he had sent to board members detailed conflicts over credit card use. “At the end of the day,” Haptas wrote in a message dated November 13, 2012, objecting to a $1,000 charge for a round-trip flight to Washington D.C. by Yadegari, “I really don’t think board members should be holding credit cards. I’ve never been on a board that does this. This is serious money we are talking about here and we need to, in my opinion, always think about this money being for the animals and how we can best help them. When I think of our supporters, I think of a 78-year old grandmother who give $25 a year to us. It took 39 of those grandmother donations to pay for that flight and that doesn’t even include the hotel bill.”
Added Haptas in a message dated November 23, 2012, “In my experience, if a board member is to incur an expense, they submit an expense report with receipts for approval and reimbursement. I’ve not seen or heard of an exception to this. The expense report is a basic internal control that every employee including myself is held subject to. And, for the record, I don’t carry an IDA credit card and I’ve no problem with that.”
Haptas alleged board indifference or negligence pertaining to 12 specific aspects of IDA fiduciary and personnel management, in addition to what he called “little to zero understanding or interest in animal protection issues.”
Haptas, 45, came to IDA after “having worked a couple stints with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,” he posted on his blog Epicurean Vegetarian Reflections, “along with previously being the director of both the Northwest Animal Right Network and the Margaret Kyros Foundation of Seattle. I’m also a co-founder of the Humane Research Council,” a Seattle-based organization formed in 2000 by longtime local activist Che Green. Haptas was also formerly director of outreach at the Marijuana Policy Project, he wrote, “where my work focused on lobbying doctors, legislators, and organizations to take more affirmative stands on medical marijuana.”
. Elliot Katz, 79, founded In Defense of Animals in 1983. Retiring in 2009, Katz remains involved in the organization as director emeritus. None of the executive directors who succeeded him appear to have lasted longer than a year.