A donor to the Columbia Humane Society filed a lawsuit against the nonprofit in Circuit Court earlier this month.
Thad Smith, who filed suit Feb. 8 on behalf of his film and television company, One-Eighty Films, Inc., said he donated $25,000 to the nonprofit organization in 2014 to be used to create an onsite spay and neuter clinic. However, that clinic was never built, and Smith wants his money back.
A proposal for the clinic was presented to Smith by Dean Cox, the shelter’s former executive director who was terminated in November for reasons neither Cox nor Lori Furman, chair of the CHS board of directors, was willing to comment on.
According to the suit, the clinic was intended to be operational within 12 months of the donation. Smith said $15,000 of the donation was intended to pay for the clinic’s equipment. The rest would cover operating costs for the first year.
“The clinic still has not been opened, and there is no reasonable basis to believe that it will ever open,” the complaint reads.
According to the complaint, Furman and the board of directors “have not taken the actions necessary for the clinic to open, other than authorize the purchase of surgical equipment to be used for the clinic.”
Since 2013, Smith has donated almost $70,000 to the nonprofit. According to the proposal, the clinic was intended to help decrease the shelter’s operating budget by $60,000 a year and provide low-cost spay and neuter services to low-income, Columbia County residents. In 2013, CHS spent $70,000 on spay and neuter services at local clinics, according to the proposal.
However, Furman said the clinic will cost far more than $25,000. She added the board hasn’t struck down the idea of opening a clinic in the future, but it’s not a possibility right now.
“A veterinarian and a lab tech and the insurance and all the things that go along with it are an astronomical expense … for a business like ours,” she said.
The $25,000 donation already has been spent on equipment for the clinic, Furman said, adding that she provided Smith with a list of how the money was spent before the lawsuit was filed.
“(It was) spent on things related to the clinic — nothing else,” she said.
Smith said he’s not upset with the nonprofit, but he wants his money returned if it’s not going to be spent on the clinic.
“They didn’t follow through on their promises. They were clearly in charge,” he said. They let their executive director go, and they have in effect abandoned their plans.”