Updated April 15, 2019 - 11:52 pm
Concerns over the possible misappropriation of funds at Southern Nevada’s only no-kill shelter were simmering for weeks before the organization announced Friday that its entire board was stepping down.
Las Vegas attorney and former board member Tina Walls filed a complaint March 29 with the state attorney general’s office, accusing former president and board member Kathlene Jung of spending funds from the shelter’s purse for personal use, according to records obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Walls filed the complaint about two weeks before the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals announced that its board was stepping down.
In the same announcement, the shelter said its board had voted to turn over operations to Reno-based Humane Network, which provides consulting to animal welfare nonprofits. The attorney general’s office declined to comment Monday on whether its investigators were looking into Walls’ allegations but confirmed that it had received her complaint.
The board’s Friday vote came about a week after Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft also asked state Attorney General Aaron Ford in a letter to investigate the embezzlement allegations at the shelter, located at 4800 W. Dewey Drive, near Decatur Boulevard and Russell Road.
Naft, who represents the district in which the shelter is located, noted that he had been communicating with board members for months about the claims.
In her six-page complaint, Walls wrote that while reviewing the agency’s financial records after she was elected to the board in February, she quickly “became alarmed at the escalating non-animal related spending.”
She accused Jung of spending more than $148,000 on a Nevada SPCA debit card last year, and she noted that spending on meals and entertainment at the organization had increased by “over three thousand percent” since 2018, according to the complaint.
“Kathy Jung wrote checks to her boyfriend, Scott Reber, in 2018 and 2019 and all but one of those checks were not supported by any invoices … which, at a minimum, violated internal financial control polices, and in the case of payments to her boyfriend, violated the NSPCA’s conflict of interest policies,” Walls wrote in the complaint.
In an interview with the Review-Journal, Walls said she filed the complaint because she was “very concerned.”
“Every penny counts in a nonprofit,” Walls said. “And it’s extremely important that the board and the organization be a good steward of the owner’s funds and the increase in the expenses.”
When reached Friday, Jung said in a prepared statement that the complaint “was initiated by a disgruntled former board member.”
“The complaint has no merit and I intend to vigorously defend the accusations,” the statement continued.
History of theft
Clark County court records show that Jung has been accused of misusing funds before.
In 2004, she was charged with 63 counts of theft, the majority of them felonies, when she worked as controller for Budget Rent-A-Car and Sales in Las Vegas, according to a criminal complaint.
She had been converting company checks into cashier’s checks, then using the funds to pay off personal loans and credit card bills, according to the complaint.
Jung pleaded guilty in 2005 to a misdemeanor charge of attempted theft and was sentenced to probation, records show. A judge also ordered her to pay $285,000 in restitution.
She did not return a request for comment Monday.
Two days before Walls filed her complaint, five board members including Walls asked Jung to resign. But at the same March 27 meeting, five other board members refused to remove her as president, and Jung refused to step down.
So the five board members who wanted Jung gone stepped down in response.
“If she was removed as both president and board member, I thought we could handle it internally,” Walls said.
But when that failed, Walls said “filing a complaint with the attorney general became our only recourse.”
Jung and the five remaining board members stepped down Friday, when they voted to hand over the organization to Humane Network. In a statement, Jung said the move was “in the best interest of the animals in our care.”
Under the direction of Humane Network, the Nevada SCPA will create an entirely new board and hire a new executive director, according to the Friday announcement.
Humane Network also intends to hire a third-party forensic accountant to investigate the shelter’s finances and institute standard protocols for handling donations and purchases, according to the announcement.
When reached by phone Monday, Humane Network consultant Mark Robison said “we seemed like a natural fit to be able to do that.”
He added that the organization hopes to get applicants and start the hiring process for the board in the next few weeks.
At the shelter Monday, it was business as usual. Six dogs found new homes, and foster coordinator Shelby Haycock played with an orange cat named Gingeraffe.
Haycock said staffers found out last week that Humane Network was taking over. But most seemed excited at the possibility that their new owners will dedicate more resources to the shelter’s medically fragile animals.
“This will really help with the backlash” Haycock said, referring to Humane Network as “the best in the industry.”
“We truly do love the animals, we want the best for them, and we don’t want anything to take away from what we can do for them,” she said.