MSPCA missed heads-up

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 1996:

BOSTON––A federal district
jury on December 18 awarded
$787,621 to former Massachusetts
SPCA head of radiology Marjorie
McMillan, DVM. The award included
judgements of $171,250 against
MSPCA president Gus Thornton,
DVM, and $269,925 against Paul
Gambardella, DVM. McMillan, a
pioneer of bird radiology, in August
1989 filed a gender-based salary discrimination
complaint against the
MSPCA with the Massachusetts
Commission Against Discrimination.
In November 1991, her 20th year at
the MSPCA, McMillan was terminated.

Thornton’s December 19
announcement of intent to appeal said
the termination “was in no way connected
to her discrimination complaint,
as stated by the MSPCA and as found
by the federal court.”
McMillan sued the MSPCA,
Thornton, and Gambardella in 1992.
Her star witness, former MSPCA lobbyist
Martha Armstrong, took a new
post shortly after the trial as director of
companion animals for HSUS.
In April 1989, McMillan’s
complaints and others of a related
nature came to the attention of A N IMAL
PEOPLE editor Merritt Clifton,
then news editor for The Animals’
Agenda magazine––but none of the
complaining staff and former staff were
willing to have their names used in
coverage. Clifton nonetheless interviewed
Thornton and numerous other
MSPCA executives, beginning with
Armstrong, who was grilled for two
hours on April 24, 1989, at the home
of longtime CTV reporter Cynthia
Drummond, with Canadian animal
protection columnist Barry Kent
Mackay and American Humane
Association lobbyist Adele Douglass,
among others, also present. The interviews
could have given the MSPCA
early warning of simmering conflicts
among staff––but apparently did not.
According to the B o s t o n
H e r a l d, Armstrong testified on
December 6 that Thornton offended
her when she told him “she had talked
a reporter for a trade publication out of
doing a story ‘ripping’ the MSPCA.”
The Herald quoted Armstrong,
“He asked me, ‘How did you
get the guy to give you all his information?
Did you sleep with him?’ I said,
‘No, I did not.’ Then I hung up.”
In fact, the investigation
continued for another month, but since
the complaining sources were unwilling
to go on record and did not directly
confirm each other’s claims, found
little of publishable substance. The
findings, including some potentially
problematic aspects of staff relations,
were slated for publication in the
September 1989 Animals’ Agenda, but
the article was pulled at the last minute
to make room for breaking news about
the June 1989 arrest of Earth First!
cofounder Dave Foreman for allegedly
plotting to blow up power line towers
in Arizona.
Thornton called ANIMAL
PEOPLE after the Herald article
appeared to state that the account garbled
Armstrong’s testimony, and that
what she actually told him she had
done was ascertain that the MSPCA
would get a fair chance to respond to
staff allegations. Thornton’s recollection
of ensuing interviews closely corresponded
to Clifton’s notes.

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