IRS probes alleged self-dealing by Humane Society of U.S. lawyers
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2001:
WASHINGTON D.C.– Humane Society of the U.S. general counsel and vice president Roger A. Kindler, 51, and HSUS senior counsel Murdaugh Stuart Madden, 79, did not respond before the April 2001 ANIMAL PEOPLE deadline to a March 21 invitation to comment on a formal allegation by former HSUS employee Nancy E. Dayton, of Lodi, New York, that Kindler and Madden “engage in undocumented and unaccounted excess benefit transactions, and have done so since at least 1993.”
The IRS advised Dayton on March 16, she told ANIMAL PEOPLE, that her complaint has been assigned to an investigator. Identifying herself as “former Legal-Executive Secretary/ Office Manager, Office of the General Counsel, HSUS,” Dayton complained to the IRS on January 28, 2001. “On August 22, 2000,” Dayton wrote in her complaint, “I met with Paul G. Irwin, President/ CEO of HSUS. I told Mr. Irwin my concerns. I further informed Mr. Irwin of my concern that HSUS had filed false reports to the IRS in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999, when it attested that the Society did not engage in Section 4958 excess benefit transactions, and claimed that no taxes were owed.
“On September 11, 2000,” Dayton continued, “Paul Irwin summoned me to his office, proclaimed no excess benefit wrong-doing, and fired me. I was given a severance agreement that belied Irwin’s proclamation of no wrong-doing.” Dayton told ANIMAL PEOPLE that she refused to sign the severance agreement.
“One attorney reviewed the severance agreement and offered me a contingency retainer for settlement negotiations based on wrongful discharge,” Dayton said. “After several months of legal fooldarah, I ended settlement negotiations in favor of exercising my freedom of speech and ensuring that this information reaches the IRS and donors. They have a right to know; I have an obligation to inform.”
Stated Dayton in her complaint to the IRS, “I have witnessed Roger Kindler’s use of the following HSUS resources for private profit and personal gain: office space and meeting room with a prestigious business address; support staff time and services including receptionist, secretarial, accounting, runner/messenger, legal publications filing; computers, printers, copier, facsimile machine; computer software programs; office supplies; storage facilities; mailroom staff time and services; internet access. Murdaugh Madden enjoys the same benefits.” Doing business as the firm of “Murdaugh Stuart Madden and Roger A. Kindler,” Madden and Kindler advertise at the Martindale-Hubbell electronic legal reference site, <www.lawyers.com>, that they handle “tax-exempt law, trusts, estates, wills, wealth preservation, immigration law, [and] international law.”
The law firm address at 2100 L St. NW in Washington D.C. and the listed telephone and fax number are the same as for the HSUS executive offices. But HSUS is not mentioned on the Madden-Kindler front page, and indeed appears to be mentioned at the site only once each in Madden and Kindler’s professional resumes. Madden is identified, among many other credentials, as HSUS general counsel 1958-1990, and senior counsel subsequently. Kindler is identified as HSUS associate general counsel, 1981-1990, and general counsel subsequently.
The most recent HSUS filing of IRS Form 990, dated June 28, 2000, indicates that HSUS received real estate rental income of $607,231 during the preceding fiscal year, but does not name the tenant(s).
ANIMAL PEOPLE ask-ed Kindler and Madden via fax to, “Please explain why your for-profit business is using facilities and access portals provided by your nonprofit employer”; explain why their for-profit business is not more clearly differentiated from HSUS; and explain whether their law firm pays rent for the use of HSUS facilities. Dayton avered to the IRS that use of the HSUS premises, personnel, and equipment by the for-profit law firm is extensive and financially significant.
“Roger Kindler assigned work on the following projects unrelated to the Humane Society of the United States’ charitable mission,” Dayton wrote to the IRS, “and on behalf of individuals with no relationship to the HSUS charitable mission: immigration cases and filings; estate probate proceedings; wills, estate planning documents, powers of attorney, death declarations, etc., and rewrites of same; witnessing and signing individuals’ legal documents; accounting clients’ expenses, typing and sending clients’ bills; typing personal income tax forms and business
profit/loss statements for him and his wife; typing tax, estate, and insurance documents and forms for his aunt, mother, and friends; picking up forms from Immigration and Naturalization Service offices; post office errands; ordering publications, typing moonlighting insurance forms; fighting parking tickets; lodging complaints on taxi cab and bus companies; personal correspondence; and the issue that ultimately drove me to research charitable regulations and to report my concerns: eliciting Federal Trade Commission [Division of Enforcement] intervention to get his friend out of paying her Columbia House Music Club debt of $87 and then getting her debt removed from collection agency action.”
ANIMAL PEOPLE asked Kindler and Madden to provide their own version, if they wished, of why Dayton was discharged. They did not. ANIMAL PEOPLE also asked Kindler and Madden how they would compare the allegations raised by Dayton with the use of HSUS funds and resources in connection with private property transactions in
1986-1988, in which HSUS bought the former home of HSUS President Emeritus John L. Hoyt, but allowed him to live there rent-free for some time afterward, and provided financing to enable Irwin to purchase beachfront property in Maine.
In addition, ANIMAL PEOPLE asked, “Is the substance of these allegations not also closely parallel to the criminal and civil allegations of misuse of HSUS office, property, expense accounts, staff time, and other resources formally brought against former HSUS vice president of investigations David Wills in October 1995, following Wills’ discharge upon your own advice as general counsel and senior counsel of HSUS?”
Charged with sexual harrassment and embezzling at least $93,000 from HSUS, mostly through allegedly falsified expense accounts, Wills on June 16, 1999 pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling $18,900 from HSUS between 1990 and 1995; agreed to pay HSUS restitution of $67,800; and accepted a sentence to serve six months in a halfway house. Kindler received salary and benefits from HSUS totalling $136,049 in the most recent fiscal year. Madden has not been listed on an HSUS filing of Form 990 in several years, but in 1995 received salary and benefits of $116,116.
Longtime HSUS donor Dita White, of Pembroke Pines, Florida, on Valentine’s Day asked HSUS vice president for wildlife John Grandy to explain why HSUS has aligned itself with a group of spearfishers and other consumptive users of wildlife calling themselves the Marine Safety Group.
According to White, the Marine Safety Group wants to ban feeding sharks in the vicinity of shark observation cages, not for safety reasons but because in her view, “They are worried that some feeding sites could be turned into marine sanctuaries.” The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission twice rejected the Marine Safety Group’s position, White said, since there have been no fatalities involving shark observation cages in 30 years of use, and since shark experts are generally agreed that feeding the sharks to lure them into observation range does not impair the sharks’ ability to forage.
The Marine Safety Group then turned to Grandy and HSUS marine biologist Naomi Rose. Rose and HSUS director of media relations Howard White wrote a joint letter endorsing the Marine Safety Group position on February 7. Calling to demand explanations, Dita White learned, she said, that neither Rose nor Howard White had any prior awareness of
their allies’ backgrounds.
Among other recent examples of eyebrow-raising HSUS alliances and weak research:
* The June 2000 edition of the HSUS e-mail newsletter Humane Lines denounced the use of shock collars in an experimental attempt to condition wolves to avoid livestock–but HSUS actually endorses the PetSafe “Radio Fence” shock collar-for a royalty, dog trainer Pat Miller recently revealed in The Whole Dog Journal.
* Less than a month after an HSUS subsidiary calling itself the Humane Society of Hong Kong hit Hong Kong animal lovers with a direct mail fundraising package about how dogs are tortured and killed for meat in some parts of China, as described in the March 2001 ANIMAL PEOPLE Watch-dog section, HSUS spokesperson Rachel Querry reportedly told Brad Honywill and Michael Clement of the Toronto Sun that she had never heard of the common practice among
dog-eaters of inflicting as much pain and stress on the doomed dogs as possible in their final hours, to saturate their flesh with adrenalin.
* Located only blocks from the Mexican Embassy and Library of Congress, the Humane Society International subsidiary of HSUS on March 23 resorted to asking on the <hsi-animalia> electronic bulletin board, “Does anyone know if Mexico has laws against dogfighting, and if so, what the laws entail and how they are enforced?”
HSUS on February 20 announced the Seattle opening of a new Pacific Northwest regional office, headed by Lisa Wathne, HSUS legislative field representative for Washington state. A King County (Seattle area) animal control officer for four-plus years, Wathne later worked for seven years in the animal advocacy department of the Progressive Animal Welfare Society, located in Lynnwood, Washington.