Faribault dog rescue, SAFE Sanctuary, will dissolve following allegations from the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office including misuse of “tens of thousands of dollars” by its former president and an alarming lack of board oversight.
In an agreement filed July 25 in Rice County court, SAFE President Connie Glarner agreed to the dissolution. The document detailed violations of several laws guiding nonprofits and their legal use of funds, but did not include an admission or denial of any of the allegations it contained.
In addition to Glarner, a board member since 2006, the document lists Jennifer Iverson as a board member since 2014. A fourth board member, Charlene Johnson, joined the board in late 2016 and did not “substantially participate in the acts/omissions” according to the court filing.
While the Attorney General’s Office reportedly found SAFE’s books in disarray, investigators say former President Patricia Caron used at least $70,000 in contributions — intended for the care and upkeep of animals and to run the organization — for her and her family’s benefit. The money was used to purchase clothing, meals, and services at hair and nail salons. About $2,000 was paid to family members, $1,300 was used to make student loan payments.
Investigators said it appears Caron misused a substantial amount more that should have been directed to further SAFE’s mission, but record keeping was so lax that the additional amounts would be “difficult, if not impossible to quantify.”
Caron, who founded the organization in 2004, stepped down in late 2016 after learning state law forbids an individual from serving as a director for more than 10 years. That, and other allegations, made on social media by former SAFE members and dog fosterers Amy Luckow and Teresa Vold, led to an Attorney General’s Office inquiry.
Board members failed to provide proper oversight, which resulted in Caron’s misuse of funds, according to the document. The board didn’t have at least four members, and didn’t meet, discuss, vote or keep minutes about their discussions as required.
“Generally SAFE and its board allowed Caron to run the organization without any input or supervision or without regard to the (Minnesota Nonprofit Corporation) Act, other applicable Minnesota law and SAFE’s bylaws,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Carol Washington.
The agreement also alleged that SAFE was deceptive when fundraising because it promised to use all money raised for the dogs in Caron’s care, and that it failed to properly register with the Attorney General’s Office as an agency soliciting charitable contributions. When SAFE did register in fall 2016, a financial statement reportedly contained false information about expenses and revenue.
SAFE’s Board of Directors has 120 days from Aug. 2, the date Judge Christine Long signed the agreement, to dissolve. Prior to the dissolution, all animals in its care must be legally and physically transferred to a safe place.
SAFE’s website has been taken down, though its Facebook page, Safe Sanctuary, is still active. The last post is dated July 17.
In a Nov. 21 post to its Facebook page, Caron wrote, “For many years, we just flew by the seat of our pants, we were legit with the governmental stuff but internally we just did what we do,” it read, before saying. “This year we have been working on getting things up to par … more of a formal thing … not that we want to but because people like this person feel the need to start issues where issues need not be.”
That post has since been removed.
Caron, in a Facebook message Tuesday evening denied any wrongdoing and said SAFE is shutting down due to infighting.
“We raised never $70,000 in donations and I never misused funds,” she said. “I gave my life for SAFE.”