I am writing in regard to the action by Monroe County in which an injunction was obtained to freeze funds held by Stand Up for Animals.

The action was outrageous in light of the fact that County Auditor Sandy Mathena never interviewed SUFA Director Dr. Linda Gottwald about the alleged misuse of funds. It was outrageous in light of the fact SUFA was not notified of the hearing for an injunction in time to be properly represented.

Concerning Dr. Gottwald paying her water bills with SUFA money, she did. She also paid the shelter’s electric bills with her own money. The net result is that Dr. Gottwald is actually owed money by SUFA for the overpayment. This was a simple bookkeeping mistake that could have been cleared up if the county auditor had spoken with her.

Dr. Gottwald did not pay her own rent with county funds. An agreement was made by SUFA to provide a hiring bonus of housing and three months’ rent to a new employee who had just arrived from Indiana. Everyone knows how difficult it is to secure housing in Marathon and the bonus was offered to ensure hiring a person of the highest caliber.

Since Dr. Gottwald was moving, the new local director took over her apartment. No SUFA monies were ever used to pay Dr. Gottwald’s rent. Again, Mathena would have discovered this if she had bothered to interview Dr. Gottwald and SUFA’s accountant.

As for using “Monroe County funded operating budget monies for purchases at the Michigan shelter, it’s hard to understand that anyone, especially the county auditor or commissioners, could possibly believe that SUFA operated the Marathon and Big Pine Key shelters on just the monies received through its contract with the county. We could not provide any reasonable standard of care to the animals we sheltered on such a sum.

Our operating budget for both shelters included sums obtained from our fundraising efforts and grants we applied for, not just monies received from our contract with the county. This was a well-known fact – the county could hardly been unaware of our extension fundraising activities, which were well publicized. In short, our operating funds were comprised of monies from many sources, not just the county. All the monies received from the county were spent on the two shelters, and then some.

SUFA was an independent contractor for Monroe County. Any actions and expenditures SUFA made were not subject to approval of Monroe County – beyond what was specified in our contract with the county. We decided to open a second shelter in Michigan, and we used money from our operating budget in furtherance of that goal.

The real story is not the audit itself, but the motivation behind it.

The treatment SUFA has received at the hands of Monroe County is shocking, especially in light of the contributions Dr. Gottwald initiated, including the re-opening of the Big Pine shelter and spay/neuter clinic. The injunction caused total financial chaos – local veterinarians and vendors were not paid for their work, employees missed rent payments because of the delay and automatic payments to insurance carriers and service providers were stopped. SUFA had no choice but to terminate its contract with the county, which was obviously the county’s goal in the first place. Now, employees who have dedicated years of their lives to the animals have joined the ranks of the unemployed. Monroe County has closed the two middle Keys shelters, lost the only no-kill contractor in the county and no longer has a spay/neuter clinic for the Middle Keys. In the end, both people and animals will suffer as a result of the county’s vindictive and uncalled for actions.

Veronica Jordan
Secretary, Stand Up for Animals, Inc.

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