Shelter manager sacked for job abandonment after escalating dispute with board of directors

Shelter manager Michael Sanducci was sacked by the board of directors of Hi Tor Animal Shelter (Rockland County, USA) because they say he abandoned his job. Sanducci was in dispute with the president of the shelter’s board of directors, Debbie DiBernardo.

Hi Tor staff gather at the shelter
Hi Tor staff gather at the shelter
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The board say he abandoned his job and county officials also say that he did a bad job, leaving the shelter in a bad state. Shelter volunteers who worked with Sanducci disagree with the board and the local authority and say he was a very caring person who did his best for the animals under difficult and overcrowded conditions.

Mass euthanasia

There was a hint that the shelter would be closed and all the animals euthanised. Ed Day a county executive had petulantly hinted that there would be no shelter if these troubles continued (my interpretation).

Sanducci undermined

Sanducci says that DiBernardo employed a friend of hers to work at the shelter without consulting him for the second time. Sanducci was aggrieved by this and said that as a director of the shelter he was charged with the hiring and firing of staff.

Petition supporting Sanducci

There appears to have been animosity between Sanducci and DiBernardo resulting in what a petition in support of Michael says was a vendetta against him by the board of directors. The petition has achieved over 13,000 signatures and they want him rehired. A substantial number of staff believe that he was a vital employee that kept Hi Tor animal shelter functioning as a no kill shelter.

Sanducci justifies his actions

Sanducci claims that he introduced no kill to the shelter whereas in the past there was a lot of unnecessary euthanasia of the animals. Sanducci walked off the job to take his complaint to County Executive Ed Day. A substantial number of staff followed him in walking off the job. It’s reported that a board member stood by the door of the shelter and said that anyone who left the shelter (with Michael Sanducci) would lose their job.

A large number of staff walked off the job nonetheless. Sanducci went to Ed Day’s office and spoke with the director of policy and intergovernmental relations about a myriad of problems including the interventions of the president of the board in getting friends hired as employees at the shelter.

Fired

Michael’s complaint appears to have gone unheeded and the board fired him subsequently about a week later for job abandonment. Michael had been at the shelter for 10 years and worked his way up from a volunteer to shelter manager.

“So many tears were shed today by so many people because of what’s happening” he said.

Shelter still functions

An emergency had arisen because the shelter was suddenly understaffed. Apparently, they managed to cobble together enough staff to keep the shelter open. The current state of play is that Sanducci is out of a job as are a number of employees and volunteers but the shelter is managing to function.

In parallel there was a long-term, two-year, funding for a rebuild of the shelter because its facilities are rather poor currently. That’s an ongoing matter but there were problems there too with how the funds were handled.

Barbara Leavey, who was on the board of Hi Tor from 2005 to 2013 credited Michael Sanducci for turning the shelter around:

“I was on the board when they were killing everything,” she said.

Linda Mattson, a volunteer said:

“Mike Sanducci made that shelter more humane. He would take animals home with him over the weekend if they needed care. Who’s going to take care of those animals now?”

The Hi Tor animal shelter Facebook page was removed temporarily and then returned. I presume this was an attempt to prevent a barrage of abuse appearing on the Facebook page by supporters of Michael Sanducci and those who dislike the way he had been treated by the board of directors.

A new shelter manager, Victoria Kartis, has been hired and she is in the process of filling job vacancies. In the meantime volunteers have stepped in. The animals appear to be well cared for currently.

Comment – opinion

It appears to me that a good man and shelter director has been unnecessarily fired. He appears to have had a genuine complaint with the president of the board. However, I don’t think he was ever going to win the battle if you’re fighting in the way that he was with the people who employ you.

Sanducci must have been at the end of his tether as he was being undermined dramatically by DiBernardo. I am speculating but I have a feeling that she wanted rid of him and therefore undermined him to the point where he had to either resign or fight as he did which led to his sacking.

Michael Sanducci has a lot of supporters among the volunteers and employees and therefore we couldn’t have been a bad manager. DiBernardo says that the board introduced no-kill and not Sanducci. The board appear to be trying to justify his sacking.

Update from Jessie Mayfield

I received the following information from Jessie:

“Mr. Sanducci was not a director, he never corrected that with the media, he was a Shelter Manager. Also, the claim was made that he was instrumental in making this shelter “no kill”, also not accurate. The man loved animals, he was a brutal bully and very hard to work with and work for. Yes, there were people in his good graces, however, there was a countless amount of former volunteers and employees who he tortured and abused. He climbed to his position by lying about and intimidating others. I have been waiting for him to get the boot since 2012. Personally, I don’t care how it happened, just glad it finally did. Have a great day.”

“Despite all the rallies that were held for Michael Sanducci and two other employees who left but where not fired, they chose to leave with Sanducci in solidarity, he was not hired back to the Hi Tor Animal Care Center. He and a man named James Joseph are now working at a boarding kennel in Bedford, NY which is in another county. I suppose all the allegations were pretty flimsy that he made but who knows, maybe he will launch a lawsuit. Be well!”

Source: lohud and subsequent pages.

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4 thoughts on “Shelter manager sacked for job abandonment after escalating dispute with board of directors”

  1. Politics abound in our animal shelter and rescue system. Just like any employment system, if someone wants you gone, they will make it happen. I suspect DiBernardo wanted to hire a friend so she provided obstacles for Sanducci.

    Hopefully, his track record and support from former employees will help him find work in another country.

    Reply
    • Yes, it is tricky. The Hi Tor Facebook page would have told us but it is still down as far as I can tell which contradicts what I had learnt.

      Reply

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