By Enrique Lopetegui
On October 1, a press release sent out by the Wild Animal Orphanage announced “the termination of Ron and Carol Asvestas as employees effective immediately,” that “Carol Asvestas has also been terminated as a member of the Board of Directors,” and that daughter Nicole Asvestas-García had been named by the board as the embattled sanctuary’s new CEO. Carol Asvestas could not be reached for comment, and former husband Ron didn't immediately returned an email sent by the Current.
For years, WAO has been fighting allegations of poor animal care and worse money management, and both the USDA and the Texas Attorney General’s office are keeping a close eye on it. But it seems the Nicole broom is working in strides to clean up WAO’s act. The latest player to leave the WAO world is Eric “I’m not avoiding you” Turton, the former WAO attorney who first promised to show the Current all animal death reports, then cancelled, and then stopped returning our repeated phone calls. The good part: it seems we won’t have to deal with him anymore.
“On Friday [Oct. 2], I placed him on a stand-down,” new CEO Asvestas-García told the Current on Monday. “I didn’t want him to do anything in relation to WAO until I could speak to him [on Oct. 5]. But on Sunday [Oct. 4] we received a letter of resignation from him.” Not surprisingly, Turton didn’t reply to a phone call by the Current.
WAO’s website was updated on Monday at about 5 pm, and it lists the executive board as Karen Maxfield (President), Sumner Matthes (Vice President), and Michelle Cryer (Treasurer/Co-Secretary), all survivors of the previous board, and a list of 13 mostly full-time staffers led by García (who stopped using her maiden name) as CEO, Jamie Cryer as Chief Financial Officer, and William West, CPA as Chief Advisor.
“There are no new staffers that weren’t there before, but everybody –including myself– is working on a voluntary and temporary basis,” said García. “Before anybody is chosen to work full-time on a permanent basis we’re going to do background checks and the whole nine yards. We’re not going to have a repeat of the history at all." (After we posted this item, García called the Current and said she actually makes $10 an hour)
“It’s good to come to work in a great atmosphere, with staffers talking and smiling to each other” Cryer told the Current on Monday. “This is a new beginning for us.”
Talking to different animal care technicians on Monday, the Current could feel a much better atmosphere than the one found at the press conference on August 20, but there are still a lot of questions.
“We want to be a transparent organization now,” García said. “There will never again be a lawyer in between us.”
García will meet with the Current again on Tuesday. Unless, of course, she pulls a Turton-style disappearing act on us.
“I’d never do that,” she said Friday night on a phone conversation. “The only group I’m here to protect is the animals.”
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