* Editor’s note - This is the fourth installment of a series of investigative reports into questionable activity at Farmington Pet Adoption Center. These reports were prompted by a state multi-agency investigation in recent months.
Our reports on the investigation should not negatively reflect on or lessen the need for the important work done by the no-kill animal shelter, or indicate any wrongdoing by the majority of its volunteer and paid staff.
FARMINGTON – A state agriculture department investigation of the Farmington Pet Adoption Center has found that at least one representative of the no-kill shelter repeatedly ordered vaccines and other supplies under the name of Park Hills veterinarian Dr. Crystal Harding, DVM, without her knowledge or consent over a period of approximately eight months.
The investigation was undertaken at the request of the Missouri Veterinary Medical Board, or MVMB, following a complaint filed in June by former FPAC Board President Elizabeth Haase. The complainant claimed that unauthorized orders had been placed by the shelter under Harding’s name by FPAC Board member and treasurer Lucretia Skaggs.
An investigation of the complaint, as well as an on-site inspection of the facility, was conducted in July and August by Dr. Rachel Cook, a veterinarian with the Agriculture Department’s Animal Care Program, and Animal Health Officer Olivia Bennett.
Obtained last week by the Daily Journal, the report reveals that between April 4 and Nov. 27, 2012, invoices for FPAC were issued on 31 different dates by Pfizer Animal Health under Dr. Harding’s name.
Harding, who resigned as FPAC’s attending veterinarian on May 26, 2012, stated to investigators in a July 3, 2013, face-to-face interview that she informed the MVMB in March of the unauthorized orders. This was three months prior to the submission of Haase’s complaint to the veterinary board.
Harding further stated that FPAC paid for the supplies ordered under her name. She said she had canceled other vendor accounts upon her resignation, but overlooked the Pfizer account since she personally never ordered any supplies for the shelter under that account.
Harding told investigators the Pfizer account was reportedly transferred to Farmington veterinarian Dr. Andre Oberle on Jan. 17, 2013, after he became FPAC’s attending veterinarian. At the time of her notification to MVMB, Harding stated that, to her knowledge, FPAC had ceased ordering supplies under her name or license and that the shelter had not ordered any controlled substances under her name.
The report states that Harding provided investigators a copy of an email sent to her by Pfizer Animal Health dated March 15, 2012. Attached with the email were invoices for FPAC dated from April 4 to Nov. 27, 2012, showing that the following supplies had been ordered under her name without authorization: Temaril-P, Cerenia, Clavamox, Amoxicillin, Albon, Rimadyl, Revolution, Cestex and vaccines.
Of the 31 invoices issued by Pfizer during that time period, the name “Lucretia” or “Lucretia Skaggs,” appears a total of nine times as the person placing the order.
The initials “KB” are listed as the person placing the order on four occasions between the dates of May 2 and Aug. 28, 2012. The report states that investigators were unable to discover the identity of “KB” in the course of their investigation.
A total of 18 orders, the majority of those placed with Pfizer during the time period under investigation, did not name the person placing the order.
In an Aug. 19 face-to-face interview conducted by Cook and Bennett with Skaggs, the board member-treasurer stated that during Harding’s tenure as attending veterinarian the doctor would place the order with suppliers. Skaggs said she was the one who placed the orders during June and July of 2012.
According to the report, however, documentation from Pfizer indicated Skaggs placed nine orders on different dates ranging from April 3 to Nov. 1, 2012.
Skaggs explained in her interview with investigators that the shelter had accounts with Butler (Schein Animal Health) and Pfizer (Zoetis) and had informed Pfizer that FPAC was in the process of acquiring a new attending veterinarian following Harding’s resignation in May 2012. Skaggs told the investigator that “she had given shelter staff a form from Pfizer for Dr. Oberle to complete to transfer the account to his name” and that “she had sent multiple copies of the form with shelter staff to give to Dr. Oberle.”
Skaggs further stated that “Butler had more restrictions to their shelter program and that account had transferred to Dr. Oberle sooner than the Pfizer account.”
Skaggs also said she had “noticed a significant decrease in the amount FPAC was spending on medical supplies” since Farmington veterinarian Dr. Vicki Monnig took over as FPAC’s attending veterinarian in late April 2013. She currently remains in that position.
In a July 9 phone interview, Dr. Oberle stated that he had worked with FPAC for a few months prior to formerly becoming its attending veterinarian in 2012. Admitting he did not recall the exact dates of his term as attending veterinarian with FPAC, he said he was not aware of the shelter ordering any supplies under his name without his consent and that when the shelter ordered supplies through Butler, that the order had to be approved by his clinic.
He further stated that veterinary supplies ordered on other accounts were shipped directly to his clinic.
Skaggs verified this in her August interview, when she stated that “she believed shelter staff ordered supplies through Dr. Oberle’s office once he became the attending veterinarian.”
In a July 8 phone interview with Dr. Monnig, the veterinarian stated that she assumed her position with FPAC in late April, 2013, and “was aware that medications had previously been ordered by the shelter under the name of a former attending veterinarian.”
The report also states that Dr. Monnig “informed the shelter that such conduct was a serious matter and was unacceptable.”
Dr. Monnig further stated that she was still in the process of implementing programs regarding care of the animals at the shelter and believed “the recent hiring of a veterinary technician to manage the shelter would be beneficial.”
In addition to the turnover in attending veterinarians, there have been other recent changes in personnel at FPAC.
In her interview, Skaggs told investigators that Haase resigned as board president in June 2012, and that former shelter director Nancy J. Wells was terminated from her position on Feb. 23, 2013. Wells had held several different staff positions at the shelter since 2011. Theresa Thebeau, a veterinary technician, was hired as shelter manager on Feb. 18, 2013.
Dawn Eaton, who served as FPAC Board president throughout the agriculture department investigation, left office last month during the shelter’s annual board meeting and election. In her July 3, 2013 interview, Eaton told investigators she was unfamiliar with the incident involving FPAC’s unauthorized orders with Pfizer.
The Daily Journal has also learned that Laura Weston — a seven-year employee at FPAC who served as shelter manager before requesting a reassignment to shelter assistant prior to Wells’ hiring — was terminated from her position on Sept. 23. This was the same day this newspaper published the first of a 2-part series on Haase’s complaint against Skaggs with MVMB. While not specifically identified in the news story, Weston was the employee Haase named in her official complaint as the “whistleblower” who revealed Skaggs had made unauthorized orders for the shelter through Pfizer.
Results of the investigation have been shared with MVMB, according to Christine Tew, Missouri Agriculture Department spokesperson.