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State Reopens Investigation of Wildlife Refuge

The state attorney general’s office has reopened its investigation of the Wildlife Waystation’s fiscal operations, officials confirmed this week.

New information led the state to return to the case, which began in 1995 when several Waystation board members resigned after alleging Director Martine Colette misspent more than $500,000, they said.

“We do have an ongoing investigation at this time,” said Sandy Michioku, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.

Although she refused to divulge details, Michioku said the attorney general’s office is responsible for investigating suspect financial dealings of nonprofit agencies. A discovery of wrongdoing could lead to a civil complaint ordering the Waystation--which cares for hundreds of injured and abandoned wild animals--to pay back mishandled funds to donors, she said.

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The Waystation’s finances have been scrutinized in recent years by the Internal Revenue Service and an independent consultant hired by the board of directors.

The IRS opened its investigation in 1995, but no charges were filed and the case remains active, officials said. The agency refused to say if any wrongdoing was discovered.

In an unrelated report to the board of directors in 1997, fund-raising consultant Cathy Nelson blasted the Waystation’s fiscal practices, which included paying Colette $117,000 a year while the animal sanctuary in Little Tujunga Canyon nearly went broke.

Colette said no financial improprieties exist at the wildlife refuge.

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Colette is board chairwoman and executive director of the facility. The board pays her $63,000 a year in wages as well as $54,000 annually for renting property from her.


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