Non-profit finance officer running animal shelter accused of embezzling $300,000 to buy a home
NEWS AND COMMENT-TRI-CITIES, WASHINGTON, USA: In January 2021, it was announced that there would be new management at Tri-Cities Animal Shelter. The person who was appointed, Rebecca Howard, had worked at the shelter for a long time (14 years) and worked her way up to management. She created a non-profit as a management vehicle, as I understand it, called Neo's Nation Animal Foundation, named after a dog that she lived with who changed her life.
Months later, on November 13, 2021 it is reported in the Tri-City Herald that Rebecca Howard's non-profit has been kicked out of managing the shelter. There appears to be two problems. Firstly, when she set up a non-profit she appointed experts in the field as a board to help run it.
One of these people was or still is Julie Chambers, a Kennewick chiropractor. I don't know what that profession has to do with running an animal shelter but she was appointed the group's secretary/treasurer and chief financial officer.
After they formed the non-profit they won the $825,000 annual contract to run the shelter and to provide animal control for Richland, Pasco and Kennewick. Four months later Howard's non-profit foundation management vehicle received a $545,000 donation from the estate of a retired railroad engineer.
A few weeks after that Chambers was accused of embezzling $300,000 to buy a home in Richland. She was charged with two felonies earlier.
Further, the contract was cancelled after dozens of animals were allegedly found malnourished and sick. There appears to have been a dramatic failure in management and the Benton-Franklin Humane Society has agreed to manage the shelter with the help of volunteers from other animal rescue groups while they decide what to do next.
The shelter was raided because of complaints to Pasco city's management about problems at the shelter. City staff made an unannounced visit to inspect the facility. They were concerned with some of what they saw. They returned with Pasco police officers and a search warrant. They found four dogs in the main building on 30 cats in an outbuilding that allegedly required immediate medical treatment. They were removed from the facility.
Conclusion: it appears that Neo's Nation Animal Foundation has failed rather dramatically on two fronts as mentioned. Howard worked her way up to senior management over a long period and therefore it is unfortunate that it has gone wrong for her. The alleged embezzlement charge against Chambers is the more serious problem. That was terminal and catastrophic. It seems that she selected the wrong person to run the finances.
Source: Tri-City Herald. Mistakes in reporting? Please leave a comment and I'll investigate and correct if necessary. Tri-Cities have been contacted for comment.