The city's animal shelter is in the spotlight again, which is pretty much the only light being shed.
On Jan. 26, I submitted a list of questions to ACCT Philly Executive Director Vincent Medley, mostly about finances. The city provides $4.2 million in taxpayer funds to operate the shelter, so questions should not go unanswered.
Instead of a reply, Medley eventually furnished a vague five-page statement the Board of Directors had sent Jan. 31 to "friends, partners, and stakeholders," defending the shelter and him.
ACCT is the target of an online petition posted by Philadelphians for Transparency, a group of animal activists, demanding a forensic financial audit. An earlier petition from an individual called for Medley to be removed.
ACCT also is being criticized by Doug Ross, a certified public accountant who heads the Coalition for Philadelphia Animal Welfare, a citizens committee.
In addition to what Ross calls "decrepit" conditions at the shelter, he points to a number of apparent irregularities and questionable entries on ACCT's Internal Revenue Service 990 forms, the financial disclosure forms required of certain nonprofits.
"I wonder whether either of the two independent accounting firms performed a payroll test to check for salaries, fictitious employees, etc.," says James A. Largay, emeritus professor of accounting at Lehigh University, whom I asked to review the 990 reports from 2013-15.
Lehigh's Largay notes that "none of the 990s reported any significant compensation of officers, key employees, etc."
A strategic two-year plan issued by ACCT last September listed its "values," starting with "transparency," followed by respect, innovation, commitment, empathy, professionalism.
The lack of transparency is compounded by a board of directors that last year closed board meetings to the public.
Ross feels the board plays no active role in advocating more money from the city. At an April City Council hearing, Marsha Perelman, of the Humane Society of the United States, said "Philadelphia is the most poorly funded municipal shelter in America."
The squishy board statement did not answer these questions. It backed Medley's professionalism and achievements — the percent of animals' lives saved under his leadership has been inching up — but admitted there had been mistakes in posting the 990 forms on the ACCT website. It said the 990 for 2016 should be posted in March.
The adoption center is in the design stage, it said, and "we hope to go out to bid sometime this summer."
The board said ACCT utilizes a professional accounting firm, but did not say if analytical reviews are conducted.
The board said last year "it wanted to engage the public better by closing the bi-monthly ACCT Board meetings" and substitute "bi-monthly public sessions, where members of the public could speak directly to board members and receive our full, undivided attention."
As I previously reported, that had the effect of barring the public from meetings at which some people spoke so directly the board decided to bar them in the future.