County Supervisor Jerry Hill is asking the board to pass a resolution stating that the Peninsula Humane Society should provide answers to the recent federal gender discrimination charge against the organization's Executive Director Pete LaVault. The organization's board of directors has refused to respond to the public directly - they have instead sent out a press release denying that discrimination occurred.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently stated that there is "reasonable cause to believe" that LaVault harassed female employees and retaliated against them when they complained of discriminatory treatment. It also said that the organization has not "taken appropriate action to eliminate the harassment and prevent its recurrence." Former female employees allege that LaVault verbally abused and physically intimidated them.
Supervisor Hill said that because the organization receives $4 million from county and city funds and leases county owned property, it must answer to the public. He wants a written report on the EEOC's determination letter.
"The issue for me is; one, that this behavior is occurring, and it's occurring on county property - which is totally unacceptable for the taxpayers," said Hill.
When asked what would happen if PHS refused to adhere to the proposed resolution, Hill said, "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
Over half the Peninsula Humane Society's budget comes from public funds, for such services as animal control and some employee salaries.
About one-quarter of Executive Director LaVault's salary also comes from public funding, according to PHS's financial director.
The current employees of the organization have not responded publicly since the allegations were made, but there is reason to believe that some staff are supporting the former female employees' charges in the EEOC filing. At the rally outside the PHS building last Tuesday, they could be seen from an upstairs window smiling with their thumbs up.
A recent anonymous letter sent to the Daily Journal from a current and "longtime" employee said that although "I can't comment about LaVault's harassing behavior, I can say that he is a poor leader and community figurehead for PHS." The letter went on to say, "Our reputation has been dragged down, staff morale is becoming worse every day...I've never seen someone become disliked and disrespected by so many groups so quickly."