Updated: 05/06/2014 10:34 PM
Created: 05/06/2014 10:29 PM WDIO.com
There's new legal trouble for one of Minnesota's best-known charities. There was a shakeup, an investigation, and now a lawsuit has been filed against the Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone.
The sanctuary, which is about an hour south of Duluth, is one of 9,000 non profits registered with the state. It relies on private donations to operate.
Six former employees filed a lawsuit saying they were fired or forced to resign because they told the Board of Directors, that the executive director was misusing the charity's money. WDIO's sister station KSTP asked Trista Fischer what she wanted out of filing a complaint. “Myself and others are hoping we can get our jobs back at the Wildcat Sanctuary," Fischer said.
She helped care for the 100-plus cats at the refuge, "it wasn't just a job for us, it’s something we want to do for life," Fischer said.
She added her name to the civil lawsuit against the non-profit. The suit relies on Minnesota's Whistleblower Act, and alleges defamation and retaliation toward six staffers who reported founder Tammy Thies used charity money to pay for personal things like groceries, makeup, even skydiving lessons for her husband. "They saw what was happening, they spoke up, they did the right thing and they got punished for it. That's why this case is important," according to her attorney, Craig Brandt.
Brandt says 20 percent of his business comes from whistleblower lawsuits. The law protects employees from retaliation if they report illegal behavior by the employer. "This lawsuit absolutely sends a message that the whistleblower statute applies to all employers in Minnesota," Brandt said. It also includes state agencies and private companies, not just non-profits.
"I don't regret coming forward because if we didn't come forward then it would continue, there would be no presentation that you need to stop this behavior," Fischer said.
"The Wildcat Sanctuary plans to defend vigorously the claims in court," Rob Leer, a spokesman for the charity said.
Last month, the Sanctuary agreed to improve policies and financial practices.
Rioting Follows Baltimore Funeral, Governor Declares Emergency
The governor of Maryland has declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to help with the violence and rioting in Baltimore. An attorney for the family of Freddie Gray says they are in shock watching the violence.
Consulting Firms Present New Ideas for Lake Superior Zoo
Two consulting firms presented concrete ideas for the financially struggling Lake Superior Zoo for the first time Monday.
University System President Addresses UMD Budget Concerns
There are still many questions at UMD as looming budget cuts hang heavy over faculty, staff and students. University of Minnesota System President John Kaler was at UMD on Monday hoping to ease some of those concerns
Three Nepalese Friends Helping Home from a World Away
The earthquake in Nepal that took the lives of 4,000 people — and counting — may be far away from Duluth. But for three men who are originally from Nepal, the tragedy hits close to home. That's why they're doing something about it, and asking others to join them.
Day Without Sound Raises Awareness on Hearing Loss, Prevention
Hearing conversations with loved ones or even the birds chirping is easy to take for granted, but for 36 million Americans with an impairment, those basic experiences are not a given, and Northlanders are hoping a campaign called "One Day Without Sound" can help bring awareness...