JUPITER, Fla. - Animal lovers across the Palm Beaches and Treasure Coast are demanding assurances that Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary is a safe haven for their donation dollars. Those clients and donors to the Jupiter facility are still reeling over the big staff shake-up at the 28 year old organization.
Millions of donation dollars could come through Safe Harbor on any given year. Neither the newly-formed board of directors nor the facility's accountant has yet to publicly answer lingering financial questions. Until they do, the unknown is taking a toll on some donors and clients.
Linda Sartori of Jupiter says one of the best decisions she has ever made was walking through the door of Safe Harbor. Years ago, she found and adopted her dog, Cece, and her cat, Louie.
In recent months, Sartori has had a change of heart about the facility. She says she is concerned about the hundreds of dollars she has donated to Safe Harbor over the years.
"I don't feel confident at all," she said. "My confidence is totally shaken," said Sartori.
The shelter went through an abrupt shake up two weeks ago. Kay-Lynette Roca, who founded Safe Harbor 28 years ago, was forced out of her Executive Director position.
"You're done. You're terminated," said Roca of her firing by the board. "Get your purse and get out."
"They questioned my management of money," said Roca.
Roca's own board of directors, headed up now by Carol Verdigi, voted her out. Those same board members and their attorney have hired a forensic accountant who is sifting through stacks of financial documents. The accountant is said to be verifying how each donation dollar was spent with Roca at the helm.
"I would never, ever take as much as a can of cat food from Safe Harbor," said Roca.
Roca says she has also hired legal help. She will continue her fight to protect animals, she says, and may also wage a fight to get her old job back.
"You better believe that I'm going after everybody involved," she said.
This battle brewing over Safe Harbor's leadership and its spending has come at a cost, says Sartori.
"I don't feel like I'm going to go to Safe Harbor again," she said.
Sartori says that donation decisions she made in the past are proving to be more difficult now. "They would just have to bend over backwards to win my trust again."
For two weeks, NewsChannel 5 has been attempting to speak with members of the new board. So far, none have commented publicly.
On Saturday morning, however, those board members and Safe Harbor staffers will be at the Maplewood Drive facility to speak with members of the community about the recent changes.
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