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Fmr. SW Michigan Humane Society president says ‘toxic work environment’ may have led to staff resignations

Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 7:07 PM EST
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ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WNDU) - A former board president of the Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan says a “toxic work environment” may be to blame for the recent resignations of nearly all of its staff.

Executive director Jill Svobota resigned earlier this week along with many of her employees. In the days following her resignation, the Humane Society announced a one week temporary shut down.

Dutoi told 16 News Now Thursday he has been in touch with several people very close to the situation including Svobota, whom he hired 13 years ago.

Dutoi says Svobota was “the perfect employee” and can’t imagine why she and almost her entire staff would resign unless there was something terribly wrong.

“I have spoken to Jill and she has been very emotional about this, very upset about it, and it’s hurt her, it’s hurt her family,” Detoi says.

As he sat with his hands on his knees, in deep thought, frustrated, Detoi’s says he is worried about the future of the shelter.

“When the whole staff there walks out in solidarity with Jill leaving, somebody ought to ask some questions. What the hell is going on there?,” Detoi said.

Since Svobota’s resignation, many residents and former Humane Society employees have reached out to 16 News Now demanding the current board president, Ron Klemm, and anyone who supports him to resign.

“I just hear from a lot of people and have been receiving phone calls. Everything that they say they know of, it was a very toxic situation there with this new board of directors they have on. Particularly, the one fellow there I understand is a president of the Board of Directors there has been intimidating to employees, and created a toxic situation for everybody involved. And I haven’t that from one person, I’ve heard that from quite a few people,” Dutoi says.

Dutoi says if these statements are true about Klemm, he says he too believes Klemm should resign or, otherwise, be removed.

“If this gentleman, if this is true these things that’s been going on at the shelter, he needs to resign from the Board of Directors and anybody that would associate themselves would also need to resign if that’s what it turns out to be,” Dutoi says.

Part of the problem, according to Dutoi, is Klemm isn’t required to report to anyone while acting as board president, which Dutoi says could have led to some behavior that Svobota and many of members of  her staff didn’t agree with.

16 News Now did reach out to Klemm Thursday for comment who says, “We will keep the public informed of any new developments in the future. If anything new comes up, we will issue a new press release as it becomes available.”

According to a statement released by the Board of Directors, the Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan will be shut down temporarily until Tuesday.

Stick with us on air and online as we continue to following this developing story.

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