WHITE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - Protective orders, court hearings and neglect accusations make up the nearly two-year battle between a White County no-kill animal shelter's board and a former board member. Angela Hughes said she was kicked off the board unfairly. The board said Hughes was impossible to work with. While the two parties head to court for a second time, everybody claimed the animals' best interest is at heart.
"To be locked out and to not be able to see those animals again broke my heart," said Angela Hughes as she wiped away a tear.
Hughes had been volunteering at Happy Tails Animal Care Center in Buffalo since 2010 and eventually became treasurer of the board of directors. She said things suddenly went south in September of 2011 when a donation box was broken into at the shelter, but there were no signs of a break-in to the building. She said she called the police and that's when other board members suddenly resigned.
"They did not want to be questioned by the police. So, they left me running the place all by myself," said Hughes.
Hughes said she recruited two friends to help her at the shelter. She said they quickly took over and tried to run the place. She said they even appointed new people to the board. The following spring, the board had its annual meeting to vote for board members and officers.
"Nobody was informed of this. I'm a board member, I should have been informed. They start handing out these ballots that they had come up with all their names on them. Mine wasn't on it, we had to write it in," explained Hughes.
At that meeting, Hughes was kicked off the board. Current board president Colleen Bowers said the next morning, the board of directors had to file a protective order against Hughes. And Hughes said she found out about the order because she went to file an order against some of the board members.
"She became very angry with us. She locked us out of the organization, changed the locks, changed the security codes to our security system, brought individuals up to the shelter to keep us, prevent us from coming in," said Bowers.
Hughes decided to fight the board's vote and take it to court, claiming the board didn't follow the shelter's bylaws. Last month, a judge ruled in Hughes' favor and reinstated her to the board. Later in July, the board held a special meeting and invited Hughes. She didn't show up, but the board voted with revised bylaws, to remove her from the board again.
"Why we're going back to court, and why they're saying we're in contempt of court is because we have used our current bylaws. Her not being there, was not aware that we have new bylaws," explained Bowers.
The second hearing is set for September. Bowers said the board will be fighting to get back certain items from the shelter Hughes has in her possession, including money, which Hughes said her attorney is holding in a trust. Hughes still claims that the conditions at the shelter are filthy and board members are using the shelter's money for personal reasons, even though Bowers admitted to accidentally writing a $10 check from the shelter's checkbook to pay for her son's lunches. In the wake of all the controversy, Bowers said the board had to let go of four volunteers. She said according to witnesses, Hughes was on the property with these volunteers before she was reinstated. The volunteers said they were not actively working with Hughes.
"I'm only on the animals' side, nobody's side," said Jean Ballantine, a former volunteer.
"I can talk to the dogs, I can love on them (wipes tear) and I don't know -- it's just hard," said Tatiana Grzych, another volunteer.
One thing the volunteers, Bowers, and Hughes can agree on -- the animals are top priority.
"It's killing us that the animals sit there in the first place and that's our motivation. That's what we're there for," said Bowers.
"I would like to come back and run it and put the people in there, from the community, that care and that are going to give the animals what they deserve," said Hughes.
Indiana State Police Detective Jerry Holeman said he just started a criminal investigation. He said he is investigating Angela Hughes and Colleen Bowers. He is also looking into Happy Tails for allegations of animal abuse and misappropriation of funds.
News 18 will continue to follow this story.
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