OLD.Updated………AR Non Profit Gal Booted Out (2nd news article)
Prominent animal rights activist sued over questionable payments
The Illinois attorney general’s office sued a prominent animal rights activist Tuesday to compel her to explain why the nonprofit animal rescue group she heads made $70,000 in payments to her mother and to a close friend.
Cherie Travis, a former commissioner of the Chicago Department of Animal Care and Control, founded the People and Animals in Community Together Humane Society in 2000 to provide care and adoption for unwanted and abused pets. Travis serves as president and director of PACT. Her mother, Judith Mason, is listed as treasurer and director.
The lawsuit, which names both women as defendants, alleges that Travis had sole control over a PACT account from which checks totaling $55,000 were sent to Mason, of New Jersey, and that another $15,000 were written to a friend.
“(In) the absence of an accounting showing their uses to be proper, some or all of the questionable PACT disbursements must be presumed to have been used for purposes unrelated to proper PACT business,” the lawsuit states.
The alleged payments may have constituted personal or noncharitable uses of PACT money by Travis and Mason, the suit also alleged.
If a judge finds the money was improperly used, the attorney general’s office is seeking fines and penalties of up to $420,000 against Travis and Mason, a spokeswoman for the attorney general said.
Travis said the suit the attorney general filed against her in Cook County Circuit Court’s Chancery Division will ultimately show that PACT money was properly used.
“I have not seen the lawsuit, but I understand it to be a request for an accounting, which I am happy to provide,” Travis said in an email Tuesday. “The accounting will demonstrate that all of the organization’s financial affairs are in order.” Mason said she was unaware of the lawsuit. “I know nothing about this,” she said. “I can’t talk to you.” The suit is the second filed in as many weeks in the dispute over Travis’ handling of PACT funds.
Last week, Travis sued a former PACT volunteer, claiming that Travis lost her job as an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s Center for Animal Law after the volunteer allegedly sent an anonymous letter notifying officials there of questions surrounding the animal group’s finances. The attorney general’s office opened an investigation after current and former volunteers began writing the agency late last year to complain about a perceived lack of financial transparency by Travis, according to copies of the letters obtained by the Tribune.
The volunteers questioned her failure to pay the organization’s bills — despite the influx of $106,800 bequeathed to the organization from the estate of a deceased benefactor from the Chicago area, the records show. They also expressed concern that they had been soliciting donations for PACT — which operates its adoption program out of a handful suburban pet supply stores — without realizing that the Internal Revenue Service stripped the organization of its nonprofit status in 2010 for failing to file tax returns for three consecutive years, according to the letters.
A search of IRS records shows that PACT’s license is still revoked. “In the past six months, I have grown increasingly concerned about how our president and founder, Ms. Cherie Travis, (who is also an attorney) has been managing PACT finances,” Renea Burman wrote in a November 2011 letter sent just days after she resigned her position as the charity’s director of internal operations.
State, animal welfare activist settle lawsuit
Ex-Chicago official banned from leading rescue group after lending nonprofit’s money to mother, friend
The settlement, filed Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court, also bars Cherie Travis from serving in a leadership capacity with any other nonprofit organization for the next three years. The attorney general sued Travis last year over $70,000 in loans made to her mother and to a friend.
Travis, a former Chicago Department of Animal Care and Control commissioner, once served as president of the People and Animals in Community Together Humane Society, or PACT. She founded the group in 2000 to provide care and adoption for unwanted or mistreated pets. From January 2009 to January 2011, Travis made loans totaling $55,000 to her mother, Judith Mason, who also served as the organization’s treasurer and director, according to a copy of the settlement agreement.
Travis lent another $15,000 of PACT money to a friend during the same period, records show. The attorney general’s office sued Travis and Mason in September, seeking an explanation for the payments after PACT volunteers questioned Travis’ failure to pay the organization’s bills despite the influx of nearly $107,000 from the estate of a deceased benefactor.
As part of the settlement, Travis and Mason repaid both loans along with $2,400 in interest, according to a copy of the settlement. Travis could not be reached for comment. PACT is now under new leadership.