Humane Society Board Dodges Questions About Troubled Shelter Director

Is this dude still in charge?
Is this dude still in charge?
Courtesy of a former HHS employee.

Current and former employees say the Houston Humane Society's shelter director, who has for years been accused of making racist outbursts and sexually harassing employees, resigned Wednesday, in the wake of yet more disturbing allegations.

The nonprofit's executive director, Sherry Ferguson, and its attorney, Diana Hoover, did not respond to multiple requests to verify the resignation, and Perez is still listed on the HHS website. (Perez didn't respond either.)

The organization's publicist and events coordinator, Monica Schmidt, also did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Ferguson and Perez have for years declined to respond to Houston Press questions about employees who have complained about Perez's alleged verbal abuse, bullying and references to African-American customers using a racial slur.  The group's board members have likewise been silent. Past employees have complained to the Press that Perez — aided by Ferguson — has chased off many qualified, dedicated employees over the years.

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We feel Ferguson, Schmidt and the directors ought to be transparent for the public on whom they rely for donations.

Connie Reeves Cooke, the socialite president of the HHS, is hardly a shrinking violet — but she apparently prefers to stay silent when employees complain of gross mistreatment.

Her son, Corbin Cooke, likewise has no interest — he just prefers to make money off the HHS even though he's not actually on the board. He's listed in the nonprofit's 2015 tax forms as receiving $3,079 in "commissions for insurance sales and referrals." So, to clear that up: Corbin Cooke is interested enough in the HHS to make some quick cash; not interested enough when employees complain that Perez drops N-bombs.

Cooke's husband, Clayton, is another non-board member who still manages to make a few bucks off the HHS. He's listed on the tax form for receiving $4,200, also from insurance commissions.

Nancy Griffing, a consultant with technology firm 35-45, is yet another board member spouse who has made money off the humane society: She's the wife of treasurer James Griffing, and sold $4,098 software to the nonprofit, according to the tax forms. Nancy did not respond to multiple requests for comment, as well as a request to explain the nature of the software. (James Griffing, who owns an accounting firm, made $10,063 by doing the humane society's taxes.)

Clayton told the Press on Tuesday that Perez was already fired, or would soon be fired. When we told Clayton that we've been unable to get any response from Ferguson & The Gang, he told us, "I know that she's going to fire him."

He added that the HHS has saved millions of dogs and is "an incredibly good organization. They got a bad employee... Party's over. He's guilty. He's fired." (Except for if he isn't — who knows? Just give the HHS your money. Don't ask stupid questions.)

Clayton also suggested that we report on "something like how much a crook Obama was." Point taken.

Board member Keith Thayer, a retired engineer who consults with an outfit called Silver Fox Advisors, declined to comment.

"Why are you writing this story?" Thayer asked.

His wife, Ruth, chimed in with an unclear remark: "I read the email. And it said not to talk to anybody except the lawyer."

When asked what email she was referring to, Ruth said, "It's very confidential."

Board members Beverly Brannan and Tony Roubik, who's in commercial real estate, also didn't respond to us. Board member Cynthia Rigoni, a veterinarian at All Cats Veterinary Clinic, also declined to comment.

Ditto board member Belinda Smith, who used to handle animal cruelty cases for the Harris County District Attorney's Office. When she's not busy not answering questions about a man accused of sexually harassing his subordinates, she chairs the Houston Bar Association's animal law section, where, presumably, she advises other lawyers on how to best dodge reporters' questions.

These are the people who lent their names to the Houston Humane Society, yet who appear to have no interest in making sure it achieves its full potential, which it likely can't do if a rogue director scares away good employees and selfless volunteers. We wonder how many more animal lives could be saved if just one of them — or their spouses, once their checks clear —  stepped up to the plate.


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