Tony Pipitone

Dog Rescue Charity Settles with State

A Broward County charity that has rescued thousands of abandoned dogs will be allowed to continue operating, but must tighten some of its policies and pay a $5,000 fine.

The group, 100+ Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida, was accused by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services of misspending money and misleading the public about its supposed all-volunteer status. In December that agency proposed imposing a $10,000 fine and repealing the group’s charity status, claiming $98,758 in charity money was spent for what “appears to be … personal use.”

But the group appealed, claiming all that money was spent on charity business and it continues to deny the allegations.

After months of negotiations, the group and the state last month signed a settlement agreement that requires payment of a $5,000 fine, as well as modifications in how the group does business.

The charity must pay for an audit of all its records going back to its incorporation in 2012 and, if discrepancies are found, must amend tax returns. If any of the money spent was not a legitimate business expense, it must be treated as compensation to founder and president Amy Roman, the settlement states.

The state questioned what it said was $30,000 in loans provided to the Roman to help her purchase a vehicle. Roman did put $30,000 down on a 2011 BMW X5 luxury SUV in July 2013, according to records subpoenaed by the state. The charity also paid nearly $6,900 in payments for an auto loan on the vehicle, which was titled in Roman’s name and not the charity’s.

In a response to the state, the group’s attorney, Jeffrey Neiman, said the loans for the car from the charity totaled $20,000 – money repaid by Roman by April 2014 – and that the other $10,000 referenced by the state was the amount of a bonus Roman received from the group in 2013, though it was not ratified by the board until February 2014.

“The organization felt that purchasing a vehicle to use in rescuing animals and conducting adoption and promotional events was essential to the work of the organization,” Neiman wrote to the state.

The group issued a statement blaming “a few disgruntled and misinformed individuals” for raising the allegations.

Roman said Monday, “I’m glad it’s done and we can continue with what we have been doing.”

The state investigation was a difficult period for the charity, she said.

“You grow and you learn and you tighten up ship and we’re very pleased.”

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