City withholding funds from ASPCI
by David Atchison
PELL CITY – The city is holding Animal Shelter of Pell City Inc. funds until the nonprofit responds to the council’s requests.

Mayor Joe Funderburg said at Thursday’s work session the ASPCI was non-responsive to requests city officials made to the organization in two separate meetings.

“I have not heard anything,” he told ASPCI representatives who attended the work session.

Funderburg said the city must be accountable for city funds, and other city officials said the ASPCI needs to be more open since it is a quasi-government agency that serves the public with public funds on public property.

Funderburg said the city requested a copy of the ASPCI operating procedures, that the ASPCI conducted an annual audit, and that the nonprofit opens all meetings to the public.

“We feel these requests are reasonable,” he said.

Barbara Wallace, president of the ASPCI Board, told the mayor and council the ASPCI is a private 501(c)3 nonprofit company, not a government agency.

“We are like any other business that contracts with Pell City,” she said.

She said the company’s tax documents are available on the ASPCI website.

Wallace said the ASPCI has not had an audit since it went into business in 2002, because it does not have money for an estimated $10,000 audit.

She said the ASPCI spent $492,000 for shelter operations last year, which was greater than the revenue the shelter received.

Wallace said it was fortunate the ASPCI had some funds in reserve.

“I don’t see how you can run that type of business without an audit,” Council President James McGowan told ASPCI representatives at Thursday’s work session.

The ASPCI is asking the council for an increase in funding, based on the city’s population increase.

But members of the council made it clear Thursday they want to see changes and more openness by the ASPCI before any funding is approved by the council.

“These things need to be worked out before we release these funds,” McGowan said. “I’m not trying to get into your business.”

But, McGowan also the city must be accountable to the public when it expends public funds.

McGowan said he wants the ASPCI to open their meetings to the public, even though the ASPCI is a nonprofit company.

Councilman Terry Templin said he serves on a nonprofit organization and that organization provides documents to both the city and county upon request. He also said the nonprofit board he serves on has open public meetings.

The ASPCI contends it does not have to open its meetings because it is a private company, but Funderburg said there is nothing that prohibits the ASPCI from having their meetings open to the public.

After the meeting, Funderburg said the ASPCI told city officials a “flat no,” on their requests, with the exception of an audit.

“And they are considering that one,” he said. “It’s like we want your money, but we aren’t going to tell you how we are doing things.”

He said the city has offered to pay its share of an ASPCI audit.

Funderburg said not only does the city provide funds to ASPCI, but it provides gas for shelter vehicles, helps maintains the property and the city actually owns the property and shelter, allowing the ASPCI to operate out of the facility.

“If they are willing to work with us, we are willing to work with them,” he said. “I am hoping the relationship will improve.”

Wallace told the council that the ASPCI Board of Directors is considering the city’s requests.

Funderburg said the city does not want to get in the animal shelter business, but he said the city’s requests are reasonable.

“They are performing a needed function,” he said. “But, I don’t think this council is ready to move forward with funding.”

Funderburg said the city is not trying to pick a fight with the ASPCI, but wants more transparency in the operation of the animal shelter.

“I hope we can work this out and if we can’t, we’ll do what we have to do and move on,” he said.
© 2013