In light of No Kill Louisville’s continued ridiculousness and spin, it’s time to dig in. After mounting pressure, here’s what the group’s leader posted on Facebook:
Unfortunately for NKL, that’s not remotely based in reality.
We have twice requested in-person access to documentation that the group is legally required, as a 501(c)3 entity, to disclose to the public. Rebecca Ficklin refused to allow in-person access, directed us to the bogus financial statements on the NKL website and then just stopped responding to our requests entirely. We’ve since filed complaints with the IRS. Beyond ignoring requests, she also refused to identify the organization’s current treasurer.
NKL has now turned to hiding volunteer and donor concerns by deleting comments and questions:
For all of those people on social media suggesting they need to be 100% transparent, NKL is doing the opposite. All of the former board members – including the most recent resignations, because all but two people have resigned – have all come forward. Countless volunteers have shared their stories. We have emails, meeting notes, etc. Several key individuals also possess bank records, financial documents and direct knowledge of NKL activities. Which is why they all resigned.
These are allegations made by individuals backing up their claims with documentation. It’s also reporting – by developing multiple, credible sources.
It goes deep. Those formerly involved with the organization are not walking away quietly. They’re publicly saying things like this, on various social media outlets:
Can’t say it isn’t true…I wanted no part of that. When she bought a tablet, a gym membership, had several large cash withdrawals, and blocked me as Treasurer from the bank accounts, I was out.
And let’s get real for a minute: if there’s any outlet in this city with credibility when it comes to animal advocacy? People turn to The ‘Ville Voice, period.
During the last quarter of 2013, those new NKL leaders we’ve written so much about conducted a fundraising push in an effort to bring in $10,000. While most details of the effort have been removed from NKL’s website and documentation regarding the funds has mysteriously disappeared, we were able to obtain Facebook screenshots backing up some specifics:
ALL FROM FACEBOOK
It’s no surprise that the organization had cash flow like this any time NKL’s leadership begged for help. This community often comes through when people and animals are in need.
All of that begging while the situation in the food bank was so desperate that NKL had to ask Louisville Metro Animal Services for help – seriously:
What will come as a surprise, though, are allegations made about NKL’s top leader…
Throughout the last half of 2013, No Kill Louisville’s president repeatedly asked fellow board members to use non-profit funds to purchase an automobile for personal use. The story goes, according to multiple people who don’t seem to like each other, that she claimed as little as $500 could buy her a car. The reason being, according to (these are additional sources) two former board members and one current volunteer, she could not afford to pay for transportation and her family only had one car.
Financial struggles are no stranger to most Louisville-area families. It’s common. We are clearly not insensitive on that front. You’ve either been in a pinch or you know several people who have. It’s also common for animal lovers to focus on needy pets before taking care of themselves. But that doesn’t appear to be the case for the new NKL honchos.
While NKL’s president begged for cash on the internet, received large checks from Amazon, sold truckloads of dog food and routinely complained about her financial situation, strange things began to occur.
She posted on Facebook about going to expensive, fancy dinners:
And – while being unable to afford a clunker car – bragged to animal care advocates all over town about getting a new internet-connected refrigerator:
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Not exactly the kind of behavior you’d expect from someone struggling while also begging for non-profit donations. Or even behavior you’d expect from someone with Greg Fischer-calibre money.
While clearly no indication of wrongdoing, it raises serious red flags about one’s ability to lead a non-profit agency of such importance to the community.
Ficklin has chosen not to explain any of this. Other than to promptly hide it all upon being questioned.
But the allegations continue to flow. As former organizational officers allege, Ficklin has purchased gym memberships (technically, personal training sessions at a gym, claiming they would be auctioned off – but that never occurred) and even a tablet (computer – she claimed this would be used for a card scanning system for food bank customers, nope, never materialized) with No Kill Louisville funds. Since the organization already has computers, the tablet — though potentially useful — is alleged to be used only by Ficklin, personally. There’s just no way to justify personal training purchases when an organization is struggling. Or an expensive tablet. Or this: Ficklin, during one meeting, wanted to spend $350 on a tennis bracelet to later be auctioned off but that was shot down quickly.
NKL has not provided responses to our questions about these concerns and hasn’t addressed anything else. Though, they have sent out a volunteer to personally attack former board members on Facebook. Which, uh, maybe not so wise.
For the record: we uncovered one instance of a prior president making an unrelated purchase with NKL funds. The expenditure was for a manicure that appears to have been accidental (fumbling debit cards maybe?) and was immediately repaid. Ficklin uses that as a talking point to allege others have done similar things.
It’s common among animal care advocates to be vegetarian. Spending hundreds of dollars on meat-filled catering from Subway and Mark’s Feed Store? Not something most people formerly involved with No Kill Louisville condoned. And for an organization allegedly (based on its president’s fundraising pleas and begging at Metro Animal Services, Blue Buffalo, et al) struggling financially, spending any amount of money on food or refreshments was hardly logical.
During board meetings, Ficklin has often spent $45+ on sandwiches from Subway, knowing that vegetarians won’t consume them. Only to take them home for her husband.
On August 18, 2013, NKL held a benefit yard sale. Ficklin and her husband used NKL funds to spend hundreds of dollars at Mark’s Feed Store — they showed up with platters upon platters of meats, potato salad, green beans containing pork and more. Very few people (hello, vegetarians) ate it. So, of course, the food went home with them.
In additional to purchases of meat, Ficklin has on many occasions used funds to purchase boxes of doughnuts and cookies. We aren’t questioning those expenses but many former board members are upset.
It goes on and on. Dairy Queen. Subway. Mark’s. The list is long.
On August 26, 2013, a dog (Athena) Ficklin was fostering was lost by her. She left it outside, unsupervised, for several hours only to later discover the dog had disappeared.
Ficklin, without disclosing her negligence, immediately turned to Facebook to beg for donations:
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So Karen Dickson, a now-former board member and longtime advocate, rushed to assist Ficklin in locating the missing dog. She got a search and rescue Bloodhound team and went to work.
NKL had two bank accounts at the time: a general fund and an account for fosters/adoptions. Ficklin said the foster/adoption account would have to pay for the search and rescue effort, so Dickson wrote a $300 check on August 26, 2013 out of that account.
After receiving additional information about the dog, the team was called out again. Dickson forgot the checkbook that day but advised Ficklin she could withdraw funds from the ATM to cover the search expenses (the board only required prior authorization for withdrawals larger than $300), so she pulled out $250. The requirement was that she transfer money from the foster/adoption account to repay the general fund.
Roughly a week later, Dickson checked the foster/adoption account records online and discovered funds transfers on two occasions. $320.01 on August 29, 2013 and $153.31 on September 6, 2013. $223.32 more than necessary to reimburse the general fund. Via email, Ficklin explained that those additional funds were for “other expenses” — like printed flyers. Which cost $20.
On or about August 26/August 27, 2013, Ficklin is alleged by another board member to have made two cash withdrawals for $250. When questioned by that (now former) board member (after Dickson resigned) about those withdrawals, Ficklin explained that the funds were used to pay for search and rescue dogs, further explaining that Dickson didn’t want the board to know about the expenses. Despite, of course, that being untrue and Dickson documenting the expenses by paying for them via check. So Ficklin withdrew $250 more than necessary to pay for search and rescue.
In addition to the above alleged fiscal mismanagement, former board members and NKL officers came forward to reveal potential fraud (and not the kind of fraud where a little girl sells bracelets for a non-existent Hope Fund).
Several months ago, NKL took part in an online contest operated by the Animal Rescue Site’s Shelter Challenge to win $1,000. During organizational meetings, Ficklin told her colleagues that her husband was using computer equipment to fraudulently rig voting by driving up totals by the thousands. The then-treasurer advised that the fraudulent activity needed to stop. It didn’t. NKL won (Warning: External PDF Link). But the treasurer refused to accept the funds and would not deposit the check for fear of being complicit in those deceptive practices. Note: NKL also won 100 vaccinations (Warning: External PDF Link) from the same organization on December 27, 2013 (update: this was the second time vaccines were won) but records have not been provided to us to prove where those vaccinations ended up. No public mention or disclosure of the win by the organization was ever made.
In 2012, No Kill Louisville launched a license plate program with state government:
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Essentially, members of the public would pay to receive a special license plate like these:
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Once 900 applications were received by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the plates would be launched. Funds raised would then, according to NKL, be given to NKL:
No Kill Louisville’s Board of Directors will establish the rules and process for applying for these funds as we work to collect the 900 application. The rules will center around groups working toward No Kill and implementing steps in the No Kill equation. Agencies wishing to use these funds should check back here regularly over the coming months. We’ll post updates as soon as we have the rules in place.
We want these funds to go to the animal in need as quickly and as efficiently as possible so no adoptable pet is at risk due to our inability to be flexible and respond quickly. For that reason, we promise to make this process as easy and quick as possible.
The deadline was never met and the board decided to drop the program.
When the board got upset and wanted to figure out a way to pay people back, Rebecca claimed she received an extension from the KYTC until the end of 2014 to come up with 900 applications. She re-launched the program and has been accepting funds ever since.
But there’s a big of a problem.
Hundreds of Kentuckians paid $35 up front — via PayPal — for the plates. Those funds were to be held in escrow. They were not. The money was spent on other bills, never on the plates program. All of it spent, gone. People were never reimbursed and there is no supporting documentation to suggest that there’s been an effort to do the right thing. And we have bank records from former officers to prove it.
WE HAVE TONS OF RECORDS
That’s why all of these red flags are being raised. These aren’t empty allegations – the people making them have to back them up to be taken seriously. These aren’t individuals coming forward in vengeance. They’re people in tears, distraught, hurting for a cause they believe in. Many of them we’ve known for years. Some are even affiliated with Metro Animal Services and you know those folks wouldn’t come forward to us unless it were a big deal.
No Kill Louisville refuses to answer questions. Refuses to provide access to examine documents they’re legally obliged to share with the public.
More to come.