Friday, September 29, 2006

PB Cats edges leader from job

PB Cats edges leader from job
After Beth Pouncey resigns, new board names interim replacement after considering cat activist Catherine Bradley for the post.
Palm Beach Daily News, FL - September 29, 2006
By WILLIAM KELLY, Daily News Staff Writer

Three years ago, the town pinned its hopes on Beth Pouncey to bring Palm Beach's controversial feral cat population under control through a new organization that became PB Cats.
Under Pouncey's leadership, the private, nonprofit organization fed, trapped and spayed or neutered hundreds of the animals, provided veterinary care, and placed some for adoption. Nuisance complaints were largely silenced.
At the time Pouncey entered the scene, Catherine Bradley, the town's most famous — or infamous — feral cat-care provider was practically an outcast at Town Hall, having received more than 40 citations for feeding the animals on private property and even being jailed in 2002 on a felony trespassing charge. Bradley agreed to stop feeding the cats after a judge threw the charge out of court.
Now, a newly formed PB Cats board of directors has forced Pouncey out of her $33,000 a year job as the organization's full-time field director and considered hiring Bradley as her successor before naming another cat-care provider as interim field director at a board meeting on Thursday.
Bradley, who is herself a member of the new PB Cats board that formed in August, had volunteered for Pouncey's job, board Chairman William Cooley said. But he said the board decided instead to hire Katharine McGovern, who has worked for PB Cats on an hourly basis as a cat trapper.
Bradley, who could not be reached to comment for this story, has been engaged in field work for PB Cats, caring for the animals as part of its trap-neuter-release program — an approach that she pioneered in Palm Beach with her own organization, Palm Beach Cat Rescue and Humane Society, before PB Cats was formed.
If she did receive any compensation for her work with PB Cats, Bradley's pay would come in part through funds supplied by town taxpayers. That is because PB Cats relies on more than $100,000 annually from the Town Council to cover most of its expenses, and it is sanctioned as the town's feral-cat management program.
That would be an ironic twist for Bradley, and a bitter pill for at least one Town Council member. Councilman Bill Brooks, upon learning earlier Thursday that Bradley was under consideration for Pouncey's old job, said that, if Bradley were hired, he would make a motion at the Oct. 10 council meeting that the council "rescind every penny of the taxpayers' dollars that has not already been spent" by PB Cats. Giving Bradley the job would be an "abomination" considering her disregard for the rights of private property owners, Brooks said. Bradley has denied feeding the cats on private property without an owner's permission.
In early August, when the council appropriated the money to PB Cats, with Council President Denis Coleman dissenting, there was no public mention of Bradley. However, a few weeks prior, Bradley had told the Palm Beach Daily News that changes were in store for PB Cats, that she would be joining the organization and that Beth Pouncey would be out.
Also in August, the seven-member board was formed under the leadership of Town Councilwoman Susan Markin to revamp the organization after it went broke amid reports of sloppy bookkeeping and inadequate fund-raising. Markin, who is on the new board, said Thursday that PB Cats could no longer justify Pouncey's salary and benefits.
Pouncey, who was not at the board meeting, confirmed on Thursday that she resigned effective this Saturday, but wouldn't say why, except that it was obvious to her that it was time to make way for new leadership.
"She was acting as field director, executive director and feeder," Markin said. "Now, we have a very engaged board, where some of the directors are doing some of the things Beth may have been doing before. So to pay her that kind of salary isn't necessary, nor can we afford it."
The board offered to let Pouncey stay on as a feeder, at $12 an hour, but she declined, Markin said. PB Cats has two part-time feeders in addition to the field director's position. It has no executive director or administrator, and Markin has said the new board would create an executive director's post to concentrate on administration and fundraising while the field director focused on cat care. But Markin said Thursday the board may decide to handle the administrative and fundraising duties itself.
Markin said the new board has learned that, under the old board, PB Cats leased a new car for Pouncey to drive at a cost of $300 a month, plus $150 a month for insurance, and paid for her gasoline.
"They leased a car in the late spring, when their financial situation was not very good," Markin said. "The funds were not really there to substantiate that lease."
Moreover, Markin said, the leased vehicle is a small compact car not suitable for transportation of cats. Pouncey has asked to take over the lease and keep the car, and PB Cats is now using a donated van for transportation, Markin said.
All but one of the old board members resigned to clear the way for the new board after the council made it clear it wanted the organization's management revamped if it was to continue to receive town aid. One member, Carolyn Ross, stayed on from the old board.
During the council debate, Markin lobbied strongly for more town funding and volunteered to serve on a new cat board and recruit other board members. Three of the new board members — Cooley, Jeff Cloninger and Cathleen McFarlane Ross — were financial supporters of Markin's campaign to unseat Norman Goldblum in the Feb. 7 election for a council seat.
The other new board members are Vicky Hunt and Maryanne Albergon.
Markin said before Thursday's meeting that she believes Bradley was "absolutely" qualified to be field director of PB Cats. She had been talking to Bradley in the spring about bringing her into the organization, Markin said Thursday.
"She was being persecuted for feeding feral cats when there was no cat program in Palm Beach," Markin said. "They [the town] adopted a program to feed the cats ... I don't know if the trespassing was ever proven."
What ultimately matters, Markin said, is that PB Cats is back on its feet, stronger than ever, in January when it will be accountable to the council before it can receive another $50,000 in town funds.
"The council will find the organization is better than it's ever been," she said. "Our records are going to be impeccable. There will be more financial accountability than they have ever seen. The board members will be more engaged than they've ever seen."
Councilman Allen Wyett said he doesn't mind Bradley's involvement.
"I am willing to give her a second chance," he said. "If she does a good job keeping the cats under control, everyone will be happy. She is certainly more knowledgeable about cats than anyone else around."

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previous Feral Cat Blog! posts about cats in Palm Beach

Kitty bitter: Woman fined $525 for off-leash cats
21 Sep 2006 by ~Barb

Palm Beach cat group purrs anew
1 Sep 2006

PB Cats: Criticism by town unmerited
16 Jul 2006

$30K for Palm Beach feral cats, vet
14 Jul 2006