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SPCA Saga Continues

By Jeanne Sager
ROCK HILL — March 22, 2005 – Steve Tardif is president of the SPCA – and he has the court documents to prove it.
Last fall the Westbrookville resident gave up his position at the helm of the county’s animal shelter in Rock Hill.
Three weeks later he returned to an SPCA board meeting and asked that his letter be rescinded.
The membership responded, reinstating their former leader.
But Acting President Heidi Wiggs (who took over in the interim) and Vice President Laura Miller said the whole action was illegal – because the meeting was never officially called to order.
According to their attorney, Kingston lawyer Delice Seligman, there was an SPCA meeting scheduled which Wiggs canceled – something that was within her power as president of the organization.
The membership held the meeting anyway, and they allowed Tardif to rejoin the board.
“That meeting was not officially called,” Seligman said. “She canceled the meeting, so whatever meeting that was was not a legal meeting.”
The women alleged the membership failed to follow the non-profit’s bylaws in allowing Tardif to walk back in the door.
After being pushed aside by the membership, Wiggs, Miller, and SPCA member Tony Leone took their concerns to the court, suing to be reinstated.
Last week, Supreme Court Judge Nicholas Clemente threw out their claims.
Joe Ruyack, attorney for Tardif and 21 other SPCA members named in the suit, said this is a “vindication” for his clients.
“Steve Tardif has been vindicated, and the members who were wrongfully named have been exonerated,” Ruyack said.
“This really had to do with the bylaws of the organization,” Ruyack continued. “The case hinged on the reading of the bylaws.
“The complaint was dismissed in its entirety,” Ruyack added.
Dismissed, he said, might even be too “nice a word.”
“It was thrown out,” he added. “The decision by the court was quite one-sided.”
Seligman agreed the decision was one-sided, because the judge failed to read crucial papers submitted by the plaintiffs relating to amendments made last year to the SPCA bylaws.
“The bylaws tell you how you can amend them, and they didn’t follow the proper protocol for that,” Seligman said.
Without information explaining that process, Seligman said she could see how a judge would make a “wrong decision.”
“The judge made the decision based on the affirmation of their attorney,” Seligman said. “Normally, the person who gives an affirmation has to have personal knowledge of the facts . . . otherwise our legal system would be topsy-turvy.”
By accepting Ruyack’s word on an issue which Seligman said he did not actually have personal knowledge, she said Clemente “erred.”
The plaintiffs’ attorney said Clemente also allowed Ruyack to present new materials without allowing her to respond.
Seligman said she will first be rearguing the case, then she may move to appeal Clemente’s decision.
For now, Miller and Wiggs have been ordered by the court to turn over any books or records that belong to the SPCA.
Ruyack said things are getting back to “business as usual” at the SPCA, especially in terms of fundraising.
“During the pendency of this action, there were a lot of people out there who wanted to wait this power struggle out,” he said. “It was a bit of a lean winter.”

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