As the ASPCA Turns

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1994:

NEW YORK, N.Y.––In a year
when American SPCA members have often
questioned the doings of the New York City-
based humane society, the ASPCA annual
meeting is to be held on September 27 in
Burbank, California––beyond range of pro-
testers and most New York City media.
Apt to be discussed are the sched-
uled turnover of New York City animal con-
trol duty to a newly formed animal care and
control corporation, to work under the city
health department, and recent executive
turnover, including the midsummer surprise
resignation of Mary Anne Doherty, a senior
financial officer, apparently because of a
clash with the board of directors. Hired in
1992, Doherty was viewed by ASPCA insid-
ers as “one of ASPCA president Roger Caras’
inside circle,” had reportedly been consid-
ered for a seat on the board before her hiring,
and was believed by some of the ASPCA’s
most vehement critics to be Caras’ designated
successor upon his eventual retirement.
The future of New York City ani-
mal control appears equally puzzling, as just
100 days before the new animal care and con-
trol corporation is supposed to be up and run-
ning, the chief operating officer has yet to be
named. Applicants for top positions are
believed to include Martin Kurz, an $80,000-
a-year Health Department administrator who
is in charge of liaison with the ASPCA; for-
mer ASPCA vice president Herman Cohen,
who was fired late last year after filing cruelty
charges against the ASPCA itself over condi-
tions at the two-year-old Manhattan shelter;
and Dan Russell, former manager of the
ASPCA’s previous Manhattan shelter.
From VP to private dick
Cohen, now a licensed private
investigator who says he’s “mostly just look-
ing for work,” called ANIMAL PEOPLE
after publication of the September issue to
challenge senior vice president John Foran’s
allegation that he “should have filed the sum-
mons [for cruelty] on himself,” as acting
chief administrator during much of the time
that the deficient shelter was being built.
“For four months I was chief execu-
tive officer,” Cohen acknowledged,
“between former president John Kullberg’s
departure in 1991 and the hiring of Roger
Caras as his successor, but there were no
decisions concerning the shelter to be made.
All the design work was done. I was
approached by two of our veterinarians about
the absence of floor drains in the plans,”
Cohen said, “and I took this information to
Caras and the board to get their approval to
have the plans changed and the floor drains
added,” which then didn’t work anyway.
Also, Cohen recalled, “A decision had been
made to switch from stainless steel to galva-
nized metal doors. The edges were sharp,
which was a safety hazard, and I took that
information to Caras and the board. That was
fixed by asking the contrractor to smooth the
rough edges,” at cost of $220,000, Cohen
said. “Otherwise, I had nothing to do with
the way the shelter was built. Caras got
involved as soon as he got there, and there
was no need for me to be involved.”
Cohen also said that he swore in
board members as deputies, authorizing them
to carry firearms without permits, only upon
explicit instructions from ASPCA chief coun-
sel Eugene Underwood. And he argued, as
Kullberg has, that whatever one thinks of the
amount of money paid to various former
ASPCA officials, the issue of excessive pay
was essentially trumped up as an excuse for
the Caras administration to get rid of them for
other reasons.
“Earned” triple pay
Of former senior investigator
Huando Torres, for instance, who was paid
$192,000 mostly in overtime on a base salary
of $60,000 in 1993, Cohen said, “The record
will show that Torres either worked the time
he claimed or was paid according to the terms
of the union contract. Yes, he was paid
those figures, but for the most part, he
earned it. They knew about those salaries,”
Cohen continued. “You’ve been publishing
all the salaries every year for as long as I’v
been in humane work. But Torres was the
most powerful union figure on site,” as sec-
retary to the head of the Teamsters Union
local to which many ASPCA staffers
belonged. His departure has made it easier
for the ASPCA to delay action on grievances,
and to fire people.”
Torres is still in an arbitration pro-
ceeding against the ASPCA, while Cohen
told ANIMAL PEOPLE he had a “whistle-
blower” lawsuit ready to file against the
ASPCA “any day now.”
Cohen meanwhile narrowly missed
losing $100,000 by default on September 1 in
a lawsuit filed by Ralph Rossetti, whose dog
was killed by off-duty New York City transit
officer Fermin Archer on June 16, 1991, and
Garo Alexanian of the Companion Animal
Network. The ASPCA had agreed to repre-
sent Cohen, since he was sued in his former
capacity with the ASPCA, along with the
ASPCA itself, ASPCA staffer Thomas
Somerville, the New York City Transit
Authority, and the Metropolitan Transit
Authority. However, no ASPCA representa-
tive appeared in court on the day the case was
heard. Luckily for Cohen, Judge Alice
Schlesinger dismissed the case on a motion
by the representative of another defendant.
Foran declined comment.
Killed cats it didn’t find?
Further controversy came when
New Yorkers for Companion Animals presi-
dent Patty Adjamine charged that a week
after CBS News reported on an NYCA cat
rescue project at an abandoned house in
Queens, “the ASPCA, without notification
to NYCA, trapped five of the cats, and
killed two of them before NYCA, upon
learning about the incident from a concerned
neighbor, could claim and save the others.”
The CBS broadcast was on May 28,
Adjamine said. “On June 3,” she continued,
“Roger Caras was interviewed on N.Y. One,
a cable TV news station, and said the
ASPCA had been to the site but found no
cats. Meanwhile, Brooklyn shelter director
Johanna Yohannan claimed she had no infor-
mation that NYCA was rescuing the cats and
she therefore could not be held responsible
for the unnecessary deaths. These cats had
already been spoken for, publicly.”
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