Connecticut Humane Society Fined $6,800 From OSHA

A federal agency has cited the Connecticut Humane Society for workplace safety violations and fined the organization $6,800.

Society representatives met Friday with officials from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but did not reach a settlement, said Ted Fitzgerald, an OSHA spokesman based in Boston.

The society has until Friday to agree to correct the problems and pay a fine, or seek an administrative hearing, he said.

OSHA cited the society for 10 violations. Inspectors said facilities were not available for quick drenching or flushing if workers were exposed to chemicals and protective equipment was not used by employees while cleaning kennels with strong chemicals.

The 129-year-old organization has come under fire recently by the Coalition for Change, a group of former and current employees and animal rights activists that wants the society’s longtime president, Richard Johnston, ousted.

Maureen Lord, a member of the group, said Johnston is dismissive of complaints, has unchecked power because he controls the board of directors and has overseen a decrease in the quality of animal care.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is investigating allegations that society money has been misused for “personal expenses and other improper purposes.”

Johnston has refused to comment publicly on the allegations, but a board of directors spokesman has defended his integrity.

OSHA inspected the society’s headquarters at 701 Russell Road in Newington on Jan. 19. Lord said the agency had visited the headquarters previously, but managers had covered up violations and employees were intimidated about talking to inspectors, who were accompanied by managers. Lord said she was fired by the society in December because she helped organize a successful employee vote to unionize.

During the Jan. 19 OSHA visit, employees were willing to discuss problems because inspectors interviewed them in private, Lord said.

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