Dogfight Over German Shepherd Shelter

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A German shepherd shelter claims in court that donors used their multimillion-dollar contributions as leverage to control it, then cut off funding because they believed they “did not receive enough credit and attention.”
     In December 2012, the Ronald and Catherine Gershman Foundation sued Robin Jampol and the Westside German Shepherd Rescue of Los Angeles (WGSR), claiming Jampol misused $2 million of their $4.7 million donation.
     In that Superior Court complaint, the Gershmans say they are dog lovers who gave their time and money to transform WGSR into a professional charity, including renting and refurbishing a new facility on Pontius Avenue.
     The Gershmans praised Jampol’s dedication to helping dogs but said she managed WGSR so poorly they had to take over temporarily. When they returned control to her, they claim, she failed to raise money and accepted more dogs than the shelter could care for.
     The Gershmans say they stopped donating because Jampol did not run WGSR professionally. They claim she took the equipment they bought for the Pontius facility and abandoned it.
     WGSR filed in a cross-complaint this month, defending Jampol’s management of the shelter. It says the Gershmans were more concerned with making money and getting attention than caring for dogs.
     “Jampol has never taken a penny or other form of compensation from the Rescue or any of its donors, nor ever diverted or misused any of its funds or other assets,” the cross-complaint states.
     WGSR says Jampol founded it 10 years ago to rescue abandoned German shepherds and adopt them out to compatible families.
     The organization has saved thousands of dogs thanks to Jampol’s “direct, active, and tireless supervision,” the cross-complaint states. “Had the Rescue not taken in those dogs, most of them would have been euthanized or left uncared for, or otherwise suffered horrible fates.”
     Jampol and the other volunteers at WGSR were unpaid and worked mostly part-time, the organization adds.
     It says the Gershmans started volunteering at the shelter and making donations in 2009, without being asked. They believed so much in the cause that they offered to financially support the shelter through their foundation, according to the cross-complaint. WGSR claims the Gershmans leased the Pontius Avenue facility on its behalf, hired architects to remodel it, and drew up a grant promising, among other things, to pay the rent, property taxes and parking.
     When Jampol “expressed concern” about whether WGSR could afford to stay in the Pontius facility, the Gershmans promised “in writing” to donate an additional $500,000 each year beyond their obligations in the grant, the cross-complaint states.
     While Ronald Gershman claimed he had to serve as WGSR’s executive director because Jampol was not interested in the job, Gershman allegedly “appointed” himself to the position and used his powers as executive director to assume control of the shelter’s finances.
     WGSR says that, given the grant agreement and the Gershmans’ promises of support, Jampol believed the shelter would be able to stay at the Pontius facility for some time. “Shortly after” moving in, however, her relationship with Ronald Gershman allegedly soured when they disagreed about adoption fees for a dog.
     “During the course of that dispute, Gershman wrote to Jampol, ‘I have a $4.5 million dollar investment to protect and do not underestimate the lengths that I will go to protect my investment.’ Apparently, Gershman viewed the money that he said he contributed to the Rescue as capital contributions that he made to a business, rather than donations to a charity,” the cross-complaint states.
     It adds: “Gershman’s first priorities were finances, establishing ‘protocols,’ ‘branding,’ and organizational structure. On the other hand, Jampol’s first priorities were saving, rehabilitating, providing medical care, and finding good homes for the dogs, which was the mission of the rescue.”
     WGSR says its annual budget mushroomed from less than $400,000 to $1.3 million under Gershman’s control. The shelter allegedly became dependent on the foundation’s annual $800,000 contribution to meet its financial obligations, “which for the most part had been created by Gershman.”
     Though the Gershmans accused Jampol of not focusing enough on finances, WGSR says she was busy doing “what she does best – saving … and adopting out dogs. This alone was a time-consuming, often chaotic, messy, complicated task. … Jampol’s work was often mentally and emotionally painful, sometimes heartbreaking, as was the case when a rescued dog died.”.
     Jampol’s relationship with Ronald Gershman deteriorated to the point that he “proposed” she step down as president in February 2012, about three years after the foundation made the grant, and threatened to withdraw the foundation’s financial support if she refused, according to the cross-complaint.
     Five days later, Gershman emailed the WGSR board of directors, ordering them to comply with eight demands – including Jampol’s removal – if they wanted the Gershmans to keep donating, the filing continues.
     Jampol allegedly agreed to step down for the good of the shelter, and the board of directors decided to submit to Gershman’s demands to secure funding from the foundation.
     Then Gershman announced that he would cut off all funding on March 16, 2012 because he felt “he did not receive enough credit and attention as financier of the Rescue, and that Jampol and her concern for ailing dogs received too much,” according to the cross-complaint.
     “Thus, as a matter of ego, a false sense of entitlement, arrogance, conceit, and spite, on March 16, 2012, Gershman left the Rescue high and dry with respect to 65 percent of the funding that it needed to meet the approximate $1.3 million annual budget that he had established and made virtually essential to the operation of Rescue at the Pontius property,” the complaint continues.
     WGSR claims that Gershman spent most of the millions donated by the foundation while he was executive director, and left WGSR with only $125,000 in its accounts.
     It says the Gershmans owe at least $400,000 under the terms of the grant, which they have failed to pay.
     WGSR seeks damages and punitive damages for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty and inducing breach of contract. It filed the cross-complaint alone; Jampol is not a party to it.
     In its answer to the Gershman’s complaint, WGSR claims the Gershmans are “not entitled to any relief” from the shelter because they made donations of their own free will and breached their contract with the shelter.
     WSGR asks the court to bar the Gershmans from taking anything from the shelter and to dismiss their claims with prejudice.
     It is represented by Robert M. Dudnik with Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp.
     The Gershmans are represented by Patricia Glaser with Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard, Avchen & Shapiro.
     Calls and emails seeking comments were not returned.
     The case is assigned to Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel.

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