HSUS recently laid off 55 staffers due to financial difficulties—despite pouring millions into lobbying campaigns for ballot measures this fall. The present situation isn’t the first time questions have been raised about Wayne Pacelle’s decision-making.
In late 2004, after Pacelle became CEO of HSUS, he merged the organization with the Fund for Animals, an anti-hunting group he ran in the early 90’s before he joined HSUS as its head lobbyist in 1994. One Fund employee was Virginia Handley, who had been with the organization as a lobbyist in California for decades. In fact, Pacelle acknowledged to staff that Handley had “decades of invaluable lobbying experience.”
But then Pacelle decided to close the office and fire Handley as part of an apparent consolidation. The rent for her office was just $400 a month.
Merritt Clifton, then editor of ANIMAL PEOPLE, an inside-the-animal-rights-movement newspaper, emailed a Handley friend and indicated this wasn’t the first time Pacelle “pushed out” women. Clifton wrote:
First, 10 years ago, when Wayne Pacelle first took over political affairs at HSUS, he similarly pushed out the older women who had formerly run the department, e.g. Ann Church. This is just a rerun of an episode that was exposed only by ANIMAL PEOPLE. Now he is consolidating regional offices all around the country and dumping people like Virginia Handley and Sandy Rowlands. Why is this a surprise?
“Personally,” Clifton wrote, “I still wouldn’t trust him [Pacelle] farther than I could punt him like a football.” (You can view a partial copy of the email here. The writing on the printout belongs to Handley, who passed away in 2014.)
Handley appears to have resolved her exit from HSUS/FFA through a compromise handled by HSUS human resources VP Bob Roop. (You may remember Roop—we busted him a few years back for running HSUS’s HR department while having a phony Ph.D. from a diploma mill.)
But then a few weeks after the deal was reached, Handley emailed Pacelle saying that she had neither received her promised letter of recommendation from HSUS, nor had she received reimbursement for expenses that she had submitted many weeks previously. Handley also asked for a donation to her new venture, Animal Switchboard, but Roop said no donation would be forthcoming.
That hardly seems a humane way to treat a longtime employee. But the story serves as a microcosm: Under Wayne Pacelle, being humane to humans has never been a top priority.