For the third time, the McKamey Animal Center's governing body attempted to kick off a board member who questioned the former executive director's $10,000 bonus and triggered a city investigation.
And once again, the attempt was defeated by its own bylaws when it couldn't muster 10 votes to oust Carol Goodman, whom board member Barby Wilson called "a cancer that needs to be cut out."
Goodman, who skipped the meeting, believes she has been targeted in retaliation for speaking out.
"I think I'm being kicked off the board primarily because I asked questions about the finances," she said. "They don't want anybody looking over their shoulders; they want to run [the shelter] like it's a private business."
Her opponents said she was a nuisance who hurt the board's reputation.
Board members began trying to get rid of Goodman in September after she complained there was no city oversight of an entity that gets $1.5 million a year from Chattanooga to do the city's animal control.
She also questioned how the board gave then-Executive Director Karen Walsh a $10,000 annual bonus without a vote by the entire board. Later, the board voted retroactively after Walsh was given the check.
In October, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke asked the city's Office of Internal Audit to review how the Animal Care Trust board operates, citing the controversy and the resignations of three members. While the audit was under way, Walsh resigned.
At Wednesday night's meeting, Chairwoman Ann Ball said donations to the shelter have fallen. She blamed media reports and what she said was a lagging audit review process.
"The continuing drama in the media is dramatically affecting our fundraising," she told board members.
City Auditor Stan Sewell, who was sitting in the audience, said before the meeting that he is still working on the review but expects to be finished soon.
When Ball said the board would vote on Goodman's removal, newly appointed city representative Elisabeth Donnovin questioned the decision. She said it will confirm the public perception that Goodman is being kicked off for speaking out.
"City money is the vast majority of the operating budget; people are entitled to know what goes on," Donnovin said. "This is going to cause us a bigger problem. It looks like if you raise issues and you challenge and don't vote with the group, people look for a way to cut you off."
But the vote failed. Because the resolution didn't include an official reason and cause for her removal, it would have taken a two-thirds majority, or 10 yes votes, to oust Goodman.
Eight voted to oust Goodman, Krystye Dalton and Mark Litchford abstained and Donnovin cast the only no vote. As the last person to vote, Ball also abstained, saying her vote wouldn't be enough to succeed.
The board tried last month to kick off Goodman but failed to give her seven day's notice, which is required in the by-laws.
Donnovin also cited the impact of multiple resignations. Five board members have resigned since September. Treasurer Kevin Lusk walked out of the November meeting and later sent his resignation letter.
He cited his job as a reason for quitting but he also blamed Donnovin.
"After witnessing the City's newly appointed representative Elisabeth Donnovin undermine the efforts of the board and railroad each item on the agenda in the short time I was there that was the last straw for me," he wrote.
Donnovin said all she did at her first meeting was ask questions. She said Lusk's letter anyone who questions the board is deemed a troublemaker.
Lusk said he thought Donnovin should have been more accommodating and respectful at her first meeting. But he said he didn't quit because he thought the board has done anything wrong.
"I would have quit along time ago if I thought there was any wrongdoing," he said.
As for Goodman, she said doesn't plan on resigning.
Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6659.
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...