WATERVILLE — Four members of the Humane Society Waterville Area’s board of directors have quit their positions and another staff member has left amid monumental changes at the Webb Road animal shelter that include treatment for animal illnesses and the recent departure of the shelter’s executive director.

Jackie LaRochelle, the board president for more than a year until last weekend, said when contacted by phone Tuesday that she could not comment on why she and others left the board.

“We signed a confidentiality agreement and we were reminded of that last night, so I can’t do that,” she said Tuesday.

Other board members who resigned include Chris Mitchell, the board’s treasurer; Dianna Demers, the secretary; and Shari Hanson, who had been a board member only a short time.

Julia Sidelinger, who was employed by the Humane Society as a foster, social media, fundraising and outreach coordinator, recently left her paid job at the shelter as well.

Messages left Tuesday morning for Mitchell, Demers and Sidelinger seeking comment were not immediately returned.

Also contacted by phone Tuesday, Malena Gatti, a member of the Humane Society’s board of directors who has served as its spokesperson since shelter executive director Lisa Oakes left her job in late July, confirmed Sidelinger had left her job, though she did not elaborate on the reasons.

“Julia Sidelinger is no longer an employee of the Humane Society Waterville Area,” she wrote in a text message.

She said Mitchell and Demers stepped down from the board a few days ago “for reasons having to do with personal matters.”

“Chris was actually planning to step down prior to the quarantine, but decided to stay for a bit longer to help us through the transition, and will volunteer with HSWA in a nonboard capacity moving forward,” Gatti said. “Jackie and Shari stepped down from the board more recently, also for reasons having to do with personal matters, and both have plans to volunteer for HSWA in nonboard capacities moving forward as well. Shari will continue grooming cats for us and Jackie is (to) continue to serve as an event chair. We’re very grateful for their support of HSWA and consider them valuable assets to the shelter.”

She said Sean Conerly, who has previous experience with board service for the shelter, has become a new member of the board of directors.

Neither Gatti nor Oakes would comment recently on why Oakes, the shelter’s former executive director, left her position, with both citing confidentiality reasons.

Lisa Oakes, former executive director of Humane Society Waterville Area, is seen in 2019. Oakes left her position at the shelter in late July. Contributed photo

The shelter has cut its dog and cat population of 200 by nearly half as it continues to treat 36 animals for illnesses since the shelter closed late last month because of the outbreaks.

A team of veterinarians confirmed some cats were suffering from ringworm and upper respiratory infections and some dogs had kennel cough. The animals were quarantined and officials worked with the Maine Federation of Humane Societies and the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland to move many animals to other sites, according to Gatti.

Meanwhile, on Monday, she reported the shelter had 129 animals in-house and of that number, 21 cats were being treated for ringworm, 10 cats were being treated for upper respiratory infection and five dogs were being treated for kennel cough.

She said the board is in the process of reviewing organizational policies and procedures to improve operations and quality of care. Some procedural changes the shelter has made recently include improving sanitary procedures and standards of practice and the new policies were developed in consultation with partner shelters, according to Gatti. She said the shelter’s transport policy was being reviewed to try to minimize the possibility of animal overpopulation in the future.

Asked Monday what the Humane Society is doing to find a new executive director, she said she did not yet have an update on that matter.

Since the shelter is still under quarantine, its primary focus is getting the animals back to good health, she said.

On Aug. 2, Gatti reported that the shelter’s board of directors had asked the state July 28 to inspect the shelter due to concerns it was overpopulated with animals and there might be procedural deficiencies. State Animal Welfare Program officials inspected the facility and confirmed there were 200 animals, which was considered an overpopulation, and those officials were concerned about illnesses in some animals, Gatti said.

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