The state attorney general may ultimately be asked to decide whether the Community Animal Rescue Effort can redirect funds it raised with a goal of expanding the Evanston animal shelter to some other purpose.

Last year, in a report to the attorney general’s office, which supervises charities in Illlinois, CARE said it had set aside $569,135 raised from donors for the purpose of shelter expansion.

But the same report noted that because the city had failed to follow through on a promise to spend a half million of its own money to expand the shelter, “it is uncertain if the construction of the new facilities will take place as planned” and that CARE “might have to move its operations to another location.”

It added that the CARE board “reserves the right to reallocate” the money set aside for shelter expansion to fund operations of the organization.

Some Evanston aldermen, having just terminated the city’s 27-year-old relationship with CARE in a dispute over dog euthanasia rates, now hope to find a way to divest CARE of the money raised in the name of shelter expansion. But the city’s failure to deliver on its own pledge may complicate any such effort.

In a memo to be discussed at Monday’s City Council meeting, City Attorney Grant Farrar suggests that it’s “doubtful” that the city has legal standing to seek a court order directing CARE to turn over the money.

But he says it could ask the state attorney general or the Internal Revenue Service to investigage CARE’s activities.

As recounted in documents Farrar unearthed in digging into the issue, the history of the shelter expansion dream goes back at least to 2000, when the City Council adopted a resolution authorizing CARE to solicit funds for renovation, repair and expansion of the animal shelter.

The minutes of the meeting, at which the resolution was approved unanimously, quote Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, as saying that the expansion “will be totally privately funded with plans to raise about $2 million.”

On June 19, 2006, the aldermen — feeling flush after then city manager Julia Carroll reported that it looked like the city had a $2 million surplus — voted 7-2 to fund “one-half the cost of the expansion of the animal shelter” up to $470,000.

The approval came despite reservations of Alderman Eb Moran, 6th Ward, who said he was “stunned” that the council would make that big a commitment so suddenly. “The city has many needs and is constantly asked to balance those needs,” Moran said.

Then, as the housing market collapsed, the city’s financial condition went into a tailspin. More than a hundred city workers were laid off, and plans for a variety of projects — including the shelter expansion — were put on hold.

As yet the city has not revived plans to move forward with the shelter expansion — which would leave open for the attorney general to decide whether — faced with an apparent impossibility of meeting donor’s desire to expand the Evanston shelter, CARE might be justified in instead using the funds to create a new shelter somewhere else.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says he will ask the aldermen Monday to authorize him to have further discussions with CARE about the issue and report back to the council at its May 12 meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. “for the Evanston Animal Shelter”

    The article says that CARE could be justified in redirecting the money because of the "apparent impossibility of meeting donors' desire to expand the Evanston shelter." But an expansion is not impossible. Even if the city never matched the funds, it would still be possible to use that half million for an expansion, albeit a more modest one. 

    Regardless, CARE solicited all its donations "for the Evanston Animal Shelter." That's what their fundraising materials have said for years, and that's what many people thought their donations were going to. 

    The city should negotiate a settlement.  

  2. Not so fast Evanston

    I find it very interesting that Evanston, over the course of the last 25+ years gave little oversight or attention to the work done by CARE Community Animal Rescue Effort for the Evanston Animal Shelter.  Now they've decided that "unacceptable euthansia" took place as a result of practices at the shelter, while under the city government watch.  Evanston government took a blind eye to the work done by dedicated volunteers and did not appear overly concerned about the animals or the donations that were rolling in.  I have been both a volunteer and a donor over the years and the money donated to CARE is for a charity.  The Evanston Animal Shelter is not a charity.  I received receipts from a 503b charitable organization, which is what CARE is.  The Animal Shelter is a tax payer, funded entity.  The city knew this and benefited from all the years that they did not have to pay for workers or supplies and never gave one peep about donations collected.  Now the city and residents are acting like this is their money, it's not.  If there was one legal leg that Evanston had to stand on, they would have been able to freeze the assests by now, they can't.  That said, CARE the charitable organization, needs to be transparient about their assests and plans for the future with the money benefiting the animals.  



    1. Charities should use donations for what they said they would

      It doesn't matter that the Animal Shelter is a tax-funded entity. CARE, as a charity, claimed it was using donations to support that entity. Now it wants to use them for something else.

      Charities are overseen by the Illinois Attorney General, who is, among other things, supposed to help make sure that charities use donations for what they said they were going to use them for. Although some have argued persuasively that the city has an independent legal claim to the money, this article isn't just about that. It's about whether the city should refer this issue to the Attorney General. The city would not need independent legal standing to do that.

      It is in CARE's interest to negotiate a settlement before the Attorney General gets involved. 

  3. The next step to Kill the Animal Shelter

    As I previously suggested this "killing of the animal shelter" is moving on as planned.

    First, demonize CARE

    Second, do an end run to try and get their money

    Third, have the City organize volunteers, an effort that will fail the first time a Northwestrn student's parents realize that their child will be walking 80 lb pit bulls

    In the 27 years that CARE ran the shelter there was never a serious injury to a volunteer. I predict that the first untrained volunteer who gets injured will sue the city and the Shelter will be closed due to the liability.

    I predict the shelter will be closed within the year and the property will be redeveloped within 3 years.


  4. I wish the new shelter well!

    And I hope others can do the same. The City has shown no indication that they intend to close the shelter and every indication that they want to improve it. Scare-mongering and speculation don't help anyone, least of all the animals. 

    Personally I am looking forward to a new beginning for this shelter. 

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