SALEM Humane groups tangle in court

Payment from a trust fund was suspended about two years ago after allegations of mismanagement arose.
LISBON -- A Columbiana County judge will decide in the next few weeks who will be given money from a trust fund to benefit animals.
Judge C. Ashley Pike of common pleas court heard arguments Thursday from two similarly named humane society groups that are seeking money from the Robert Atchinson Trust, now valued at about $1 million.
Judge Pike also has been asked to let the trust fund's trustee, Don Vincent of Salem, decide who should get money from the trust, established in 1956.
The Salem Area Humane Society is one of the groups seeking the money.
History: For decades, the agency has run an animal shelter along U.S. Route 62 in Perry Township, west of Salem.
To fund its operations, it received Atchinson Trust Fund money from the early '60s until October 1999.
In October 1999, Judge Pike ordered distributions from the trust fund to the group suspended after allegations arose that money was being misused and animals at the shelter weren't receiving proper care.
Since that time, the society says it has instituted proper accounting procedures and has improved conditions at the shelter, which houses dogs and cats.
"There's a tremendous effort made to keep it as clean as possible," Thomas Fountaine, the group's vice president said.
Rival: But a rival organization calling itself the Salem Humane Society was formed in November 2000.
Made up of some members from the original group, the new group says it is well-organized, has plenty of support, and should be awarded the trust fund money.
The new agency has no shelter, but it does conduct animal welfare education and provides a spaying and neutering service.
Atty. Robert Guehl of Salem, representing the new group, claimed that the original organization is still exhibiting mismanagement, particularly through poor accounting practices.
"We should not permit a group to come in and hijack" another organization and its mission, said Atty. Dominic Frank of East Liverpool, representing the original humane society.

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