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Hi Tor Animal Care Center Holds First Open Board Meeting; Board President Faces Critics, Answers Questions
Posted March 13th, 2014

Update - Hi-Tor Animal Shelter Board confirmed that recently hired executive director Westley Artope did not have his contract renewed this week. He was under a 90-day probationary period as a new hire.

BY CHERYL SLAVIN

Hi_Tor-The Board of Directors of the Hi Tor Animal Care Center held its first open Board Meeting of the year on February 19. Portions of the meeting videotaped by a member of the public were posted on Youtube. The segments depict statements by Board President Lizanne Fiorentino addressing a number of issues facing the Board as well as comments, questions and criticisms raised by a number of audience participants.

Fiorentino explained that a new Board has been in place since January 1, and that the open meeting was to be the first of four throughout the year in an effort to promote greater transparency and communication between the Board and the public. She notes that this is the first time in Hi Tor’s history that any Board has made such an effort. She admitted during the meeting that over the past few years Hi Tor has suffered from mismanagement both at the Board and at the staff level, but that the new Board is committed to assessing the situation and making whatever changes were necessary to remedy it.

Fiorentino outlined problems with communication, fundraising and record keeping. She also alleged that many previous Board members did not do the work required of them, leaving many tasks undone. She has only been involved with the Hi Tor Board for a year, but has already made it clear to her colleagues that if they cannot make the time or work commitment required, then they should step down so that others can step up to the task.

Fiorentino addressed an incident during which three stray cats that tested positive for either FIV or leukemia were euthanized before a separate rescue organization, “Care About the Strays,” could take them in. She apologized to all for the sequence of events that led to the cats’ deaths taking full responsibility as President for the situation. She further assured the public that a new four person protocol was now in place to prevent this from happening again. A representative for Care About the Strays later made a statement condemning what happened at the shelter and expressing reservation about a future relationship with Hi Tor, but stopped short of saying that she wouldn’t continue to work with Hi Tor.

As part of list of achievements and on-going projects at Hi Tor, Fiorentino stated that in the past year the shelter has opened a new outdoor patio for cats, launched its volunteer manual, increased its social media visibility and conducted several successful fundraisers. She admitted, however, that she did not have the exact accounting for the fundraisers available to give the public, a statement that elicited a great deal of criticism from the audience. She then repeated that among other things the Board needed to improve its book keeping and internal communications.

In addition to questioning Fiorentino about money management, audience members raised issues about the treatment of volunteers by staff, the difficulty of applying for a Board position and the lack of communication between the Board and the public. Fiorentino responded by requesting that as this is a new Board, the public judge it on its actions going forward. She stated she has made her email and phone number available and was open to suggestions as to how to improve communication.

Members of the public interested in applying for Board positions can submit resumes to the Board. Future Board applicants will be assessed not only on their commitment to animals, but on their willingness to work and on the skills they can bring to Hi Tor. Fiorentino later clarified to the Rockland County Times that the Board is still working on an appropriate procedure with regard to harassment complaints by volunteers. Staff complaints will now be handled by a designated Board liaison.

Furthermore, the Hi Tor Board now has a strategic plan in place, and recently held a two day development workshop during which they examined every aspect of the operation in order to identify problem areas and develop solutions. Fiorentino stressed that the Board is committed to changing whatever needs to be changed, regardless of past practices. But she also stressed that it will be a long process, and may not please everyone.

A segment of critics have become vocal on Facebook and do not appear to accept Fiorentino’s explanations or pleas for patience. They assert that the Board is at best inept, and at worst corrupt, citing the failure to adequately fundraise or keep the books. Critics have also been vocal recently on WRCR’s morning show. Fiorentino counters that Hi Tor must remain true to its mission, but that it also must be run in an appropriately business like manner.

Comments

  1. underdog1964 says:

    These are the very same empty promises the last board president made. Why she’s still allowed to sit on the board is beyond me.
    Seminars, rhetoric and blaming the County will not fix this place.

    Having said that, people should continue to donate to and support the Rebuild Hi-Tor group which is a separate entity from the shelter. It really is the only hope these animals have to be housed in a decent facility.

  2. Almostcantbelieveit says:

    This “new” board is unethical. Just like she became board president at some point she will have a successor because each of them will continue to claw and stab each other in the back to be in power. They need to throw them all off and start from scratch.

  3. Almostcantbelieveit says:

    ………….the inmates are running the asylum.

  4. RileyJ says:

    I wish Hi Tor all the best. Ms. Fiorentino has a good reputation in the Rockland community and I am sure she will do a good job of cleaning up the board and the organization. It’s a shame the naysayers are still banging the same drum of hate, though. I would like to know if there is any concrete proof that the new board is unethical, because throwing out false claims just makes some people look very foolish and unintelligent in my eyes. One last thing…isn’t Hi Tor and Re-Build under the same umbrella? That’s what Don Franchino was quoted as saying in an article when the Re-Build effort first began. Has something changed?

  5. mypets says:

    Can’t believe what I just read! Maybe it would be fair to do an article on what is really happening at the shelter and ask the volunteers who have been treated badly to come forward to help write their experiences with this board. Let’s be fair all around. There is more going on then is being told by the president and blaming others is not professional.

  6. underdog1964 says:

    Riley,
    No one needs to “bang a drum” about the shelter, it’s board’s history speaks for itself.

    Bette Nussbaum was unseated with these same promises from the last board president and dysfunctional board.
    Pointing out the obvious and continued well documented failures of the board is in no way fighting against the shelter.
    Perhaps you should avail yourself of the FOIA provision in order to see some of the inspection reports from NYS Agriculture and Markets.
    No uninformed claims. Documented proof.

    As I have told board members to there faces, I wish the shelter would succeed for the sake of the animals there but that simply does not seem to be within the reach of this group.
    The more important thing is “saving face”.

    As for Rebuild, it is a separate entity from Hi-Tor and people SHOULD continue to donate to and support it.
    Perhaps you should ask Don.
    Of course, that will require not just accepting what you are told and asking for yourself.

  7. nycrealtor says:

    I am new to Rockland Cty and volunteer at Hi-Tor, regularly. I cannot speak about the past because I don’t have any knowledge of this entity prior to 2013. However, recently, I asked a friend of mine from a celebrity family (also involved in animal rescue) to post Star’s plight on her Facebook page because I knew it would reach a following that spans the US. Although it did not help Star find a home, my friend did receive many inquires as to the whereabouts of Hi-Tor because people could not believe a shelter would keep a dog for almost 2 years! This says a lot about Hi-Tor and, ultimately, the people that run this organization. With all this adversity, Hi-Tor has managed to become the exception in this country.

    All this controversy only serves to hurt the animals. Don’t hold up donations or stop bringing supplies. People that choose to do this are far worse then the people who dumped these animals in the first place. As angry as some of you may have been with the last Board, I can still find a lot happy people who found wonderful pets at Hi-Tor, including me!!

    So despite all the controversy, Hi-Tor may have its troubles but compared to most shelters (known as cost centers where euthanasia is preferred to the price of extending life) I think Hi-Tor is a really amazing place!!

    Why do so many people fail to see that the love and care of the volunteers, staff and Board members has made Hi-Tor an exceptional facility compared to what exists in most of the US. Somehow, even with all this adversity, all of of you have managed to take Hi-Tor from a high kill facility (where, not long ago, rabbits were purchased for $5 to make stew and dogs like Star wouldn’t survive a month) to the low kill facility it is today.

    Intelligent people discuss facts and not information rooted in gossip. They do so with respect and dignity toward all parties involved. People who post negative information on a public forum without documented facts for backup show their lack of integrity.

  8. Wendy says:

    Hi-Tor has an incredibly high turnover rate in employees, volunteers and even member of the Board of Directors and this is never addressed. The animals are wonderful and if animals were sitting on the BOD, things would be very different. Instead there are people that treat the public with contempt and will not answer legitimate questions yet want them to volunteer and open up their wallets and donate money. The BOD always blames the problems on the group before. Meanwhile, a 500K trust evaporated which could have been used toward erecting a new shelter.

    If you question anything done at the shelter, you are attacked with criticism and run off or if you are on the BOD, you are voted off. Real nice way to operate?

    You tell people on the BOD about terrible things going on and they sit back and don’t do a darn thing to correct it. They allow incompetent and lazy people to stay on until their contract expires or they are so harassed by others that they leave. The animals deserve better than this.

    When people at the shelter or on the BOD want to get rid of someone, they accuse them of theft. Real classy moves. If I had a nickel for every former donor and volunteer that had to walk away from the this shelter for their own sanity, I would be rich.

    This BOD needs to be kicked to the curb and an entirely new group needs to be selected to run the place.

  9. underdog1964 says:

    “Don’t hold up donations or stop bringing supplies. People that choose to do this are far worse then the people who dumped these animals in the first place.”

    I absolutely agree. Unfortunately, when you criticize this board you are painted as someone who doesn’t care about these animals. I never advocated not donating or volunteering.
    What I do advocate is getting a board that can get out of it’s own way to improve the conditions for the animals.

    I also find it interesting that in this thread is someone asking for “concrete proof” when she herself was a board member and got so fed up with the nonsense that she quit the board in disgust.

  10. RileyJ says:

    Underdog,

    Not sure of the reference to the board member you speak of. But it is all too clear to me it is YOU who has an agenda. According to you the old board is a disgrace as is the new board. But everyone should continue donating to ReBuild? That speaks volumes to anyone capable of reading between the lines.

    Now for the second time I ask where is your proof for the accusations you spew so gratuitously in your previous posts? With all of the information you insinuate to be sitting on perhaps you would care to share it with the rest of us who prefer to form our opinions on facts and not the rantings of an extremely angry individual such as yourself.

    The FOIA reports you claim to have in your possession contain information only about the inspection of the shelter, I’m assuming?? Where in these reports does it lend any truth to your claims of improprieties on any board members past or present. Please, I am truly curious.

    1. underdog1964 says:

      That’s funny. The EX board member I speak of is famous for accusing others of having “an agenda” when she herself is the one starting online petitions.

      I’ve done my research and had a relative that worked at the shelter. What exactly is your experience with them? “Just curious.”

      Since you claim not to know who I’m speaking about, I take it you have absolutely no proof of for any of your ad hominem rantings you just launched at me.
      Another trait the board member I am speaking of is famous for. Hmmmm…

      “…the rantings of an extremely angry individual such as yourself.”
      Perhaps you should reas the vitrol you just spewed at me to determine which of us is “extremely angry.”
      To coin a phrase, “Methinks the lady doth protest too much”.

      Maybe you should concentrate a bit more on improving the performance of your buddies on the board (which would improve conditions for the animals) and less on attacking those who are trying to expose the problems.

      To do otherwise is having “an agenda”.

      1. underdog1964 says:

        Forgot one thing… one can also FOIA the minutes from the board meetings when they are recorded.
        You may want to give that a shot as well.

        1. dskriloff says:

          Hi Tor is not a public agency, so FOIA is not in effect

          1. underdog1964 says:

            I’ve gotten the reports through NYS Agriculture and Markets.
            If I incorrectly thought that was part of the FOIL provision, I stand corrected.

            In fact, I’ve seen the minutes of the board meetings posted on Facebook by others so I know I’m not the only one getting them.
            Those I believe are provided by the County.

          2. dskriloff says:

            As I understand it the board of Hi-Tor is not a publicly-regulated institution, they merely receive some public funding. So, what you are saying bears some investigation. They may post it just to be transparent.

          3. underdog1964 says:

            Reports can be obtained throughthis link http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/contactfoil.html
            This is why I said it was FOIA

            The person who usually replies is Jodie Glad.

            Minutes from the Hi-Tor Board meetings can be obtained from the Rockland County Legislature.

            Apparently since they do accept funding from the County, they are accountable.
            Request the info and make your own decision.

      2. RileyJ says:

        Underdog, I have no connection to the board, past or present. I am simply trying to understand the situation at hand based on all I’ve been reading online and hearing on the radio, and you keep giving me the runaround. For all intense and purposes you can consider me a donor who is looking to give money to a worthy organization. I am leaning toward Hi Tor, but if your accusations and insinuations hold any truth whatsoever perhaps I should reconsider?? Your commentary on this thread is very disturbing, true or not. And when you make blanketed statements please don’t expect anyone to take them at face value unless you have legitimate facts to back them up. Otherwise it becomes hearsay from an angry person with an axe to grind. This is the tone you convey.
        After having some very positive interactions with Ms. Fiorentino I was impressed by her professionalism, her background, and her fortitude. She is a breath of much-needed fresh air for an organization that was on the brink of failure due to the negligence of former administrators and staff. And the last time I checked accountability, responsibility, honesty and transparency are necessary for the health and viability of any organization which she is more than prepared to restore. Can you guarantee the same of ReBuild with absolute confidence?

        1. underdog1964 says:

          Reports can be obtained throughthis link http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/contactfoil.html
          This is why I said it was FOIA

          The person who usually replies is Jodie Glad.

          Minutes from the Hi-Tor Board meetings can be obtained from the Rockland County Legislature.

          Apparently since they do accept funding from the County, they are accountable.
          REquest the info and make your own decision.

  11. nycrealtor says:

    Again, what I don’t understand is why people think Hi-Tor is doing such a terrible job with the animals!!!! If you want to see terrible conditions and treatment of animals, go to just about any other shelter.

    An animal shelter is a cost center. Animals die to reduce the cost of caring for them. I get posts from people all over the country sharing pictures of animals for adoption at these shelters. In some cases, perfectly healthy and well mannered animals only have days before they are euthanized.

    If some of you would take the time to research the conditions at some of the other local shelters (and I mean shelters similar to Hi-Tor where any animal surrendered is accepted), you might have a very different opinion. Most of these places make Hi-Tor look like paradise.

    People, do your homework before you make accusations!

    1. underdog1964 says:

      Reports can be obtained throughthis link http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/contactfoil.html
      This is why I said it was FOIA

      The person who usually replies is Jodie Glad.

      Minutes from the Hi-Tor Board meetings can be obtained from the Rockland County Legislature.

      Apparently since they do accept funding from the County, they are accountable.
      REquest the info and make your own decision.