Entries in Oklahoma (2)


Huge Donation Goes to Wrong Animal Shelter

Tiffany Hagler-Geard/ABC News(SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.) -- One morning in early March, Susan Babbitt received a phone call from the Dana Law Firm in Scottsdale, Ariz. It was the kind of call people dream about: A woman had recently passed away, she was told, and had left money to the Friends of Collinsville Animal Shelter, the animal haven Babbit founded in Collinsville, Okla.

Babbit was shocked. Who was this woman? And more specifically, how much was the donation for?

"I was too polite to ask," Babbitt told ABC News.

A few days later, after mailing back a notarized and certified letter with the shelter's tax identification number as a nonprofit organization, she got her answer: The donor was 68-year-old Mary Kay Thomas. Thomas had no family and wanted to donate 27.5 percent of her estate to the animal shelter, according to Tulsa World.

As for the donation? It was for a whopping $188,981.03.

"I couldn't believe it," said Babbitt, who is also the librarian for the town, just north of Tulsa. She did wonder how Thomas was connected to her organization, but no one in Dana's office seemed to know. "That should have been a red flag, but it wasn't," Babbitt admitted.

Still, she was thrilled by the situation. "Every month we worry that we're going to have to close, and almost every other month we have some kind of a fundraiser"-- art sales, bake sales, garage sales. These small fundraisers helped her build the no-kill shelter, which goes by the name, Ward-Wiseman Animal Haven. It opened in 2008 after four years of effort and can hold about 30 cats and dogs, she said.

"I've always said, when you have an animal shelter you spend money, you don't make money," said Babbitt. "There's no way to get ahead. We charge a small fee--$120--to adopt the animal. But by the time we spay, neuter and give the animals heartworm tests, we've spent that much. But for the animals to be able to go to a good home, it's worth it to us."

On March 27, Babbitt received the check and immediately transferred it into the shelter's account. And that would have been that, but for the call she received on April 15. The law firm had made a mistake, the voice on her answering machine said. The check had gone to the wrong shelter. Instead, it was meant for the Friends of Collinsville Animal Shelter--the animal control and adoption shelter for the City of Collinsville, Illinois, not Oklahoma.

"I said 'You're kidding me! How can this happen after eight weeks?" Babbitt recalled.

She consulted her lawyer, who told her that she had to return the money.

Matt Dana, the owner and president of Dana Law Firm, told ABC News that it was an honest mix-up, the result of changing personnel in his office. "Somewhere along the way the file was assigned to a different attorney in the firm with a different paralegal, and they mailed out the check to the wrong charity," he said.

Dana said his company realized the mistake after a representative from the Collinsville, Ill., shelter—now called the Warren Billhartz Collinsville Animal Shelter -- called to ask about the status of the check. "Everybody started to panic and looked in the file and discovered there were two shelters and the check was sent to the wrong one," said Dana.

Although he feels "terrible," he does expect Babbitt to return the money. "It's no different than if you go to the grocery store and when you check out there's a bag of sugar under your cart that you didn't buy," he said. "The clerk made a mistake. It's not like you get to keep the sugar."

 Babbitt, for her part, has every intention to send back the cash, although she has not yet done so. "I just haven't had time," she said. "I'm going to do it."

But just in case, she gave a call to John Miller, the mayor of Collinsville, Ill., to ask if he would be willing to split the donation in half. "We are a no-kill institution," she said. "They euthanize. We don't. I doubt the woman would have wanted to donate to a shelter that euthanizes the animals."

Neither the Illinois shelter nor the mayor's office returned calls to ABC News. As of this writing Babbitt had not heard back from the mayor.

To help compensate for his error, Dana plans to donate his $12,000 fee to Babbitt's shelter.

"We've been told those people never had more than $2,000 in their bank account," he said. "We can understand that this is devastating to them."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


President Obama to Head to Oklahoma Site of Southern Portion of Keystone Pipeline Project

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(CUSHING, Okla.) -- President Obama will visit Cushing, Okla., on Thursday, where he will visit the southern part of the Keystone Pipeline project -- the portion that is proceeding with Obama administration support, as opposed to the northern section that the president blocked out of environmental concerns.

The Obama administration has been playing defense on energy issues, with skyrocketing gas prices threatening to hurt the fragile economic recovery and undermine consumer confidence. Accused by Republicans of not doing enough to encourage domestic oil production, President Obama has given three speeches on energy in the last three weeks. The president has heralded how domestic oil production has increased, and domestic consumption has decreased, during his administration, but energy experts say his policies have little to do with those developments.

“The president has talked about that while there’s no silver bullet to solve this problem, where there are steps we can take to address the real problem we’re going to take those steps,” a senior administration official told ABC News. “In Cushing, there’s a bottleneck, a glut of oil, and this pipeline will solve that problem.”

White House officials hope this trip to Cushing will erase political damage done to the president by his opposition to the larger Keystone project by heralding his support for part of it. In February, the Pew Research Center indicated that 63 percent of the public had heard at least a little about the Keystone project. Of those individuals, 66 percent believe that the government should approve the project.

Oklahoma will be one stop in a four-state trip next week in which the president will herald what he describes as an “all of the above” approach to energy. The other visits will include a solar power plant in Boulder City, Nev. along with oil and gas fields in Carlsbad, N.M. on Wednesday. On Thursday, the president will visit Cushing, ending the trip with an energy-themed speech at Ohio State University in Columbus, a university that White House officials describe as being home to some of the country’s most advanced energy-related alternative energy vehicle research and development.

Last month TransCanada Corporation announced it would seek approval for the part of the Keystone Pipeline project leading from Cushing, Okla., to Texas refineries in the Gulf. The company said constructing that part of the pipeline would create roughly 4,000 jobs, both in construction and in supporting those workers, and cost $2.3 billion. The company said it hoped this smaller portion would be working by 2013.

In a statement at the time, White House press secretary Jay Carney said President Obama welcomed the news.

“As the President made clear in January, we support the company’s interest in proceeding with this project,” he said, “which will help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production, currently at an eight year high. Moving oil from the Midwest to the world-class, state-of-the-art refineries on the Gulf Coast will modernize our infrastructure, create jobs, and encourage American energy production. We look forward to working with TransCanada to ensure that it is built in a safe, responsible and timely manner, and we commit to take every step possible to expedite the necessary Federal permits.”

The political twists and turns of the TransCanada Corporation’s Keystone XL oil pipeline have woven their way through the debate about energy policy in the past six months. In November, the State Department announced it would delay a decision on the proposed Keystone project to allow for further study of the environmental impact along its 1,700-mile route. The president was stuck between environmentalists and many residents of Nebraska, who opposed the project due to concerns about how it would impact its water supply, and labor unions and others who heralded the jobs the pipeline would create.

TransCanada has said the project would create “more than 20,000 direct jobs and 118,000 spin off jobs during construction.” The State Department had a more conservative estimate, saying “the construction work force would consist of approximately 5,000 to 6,000 workers.”

Last November, President Obama told ABC Omaha, Neb., TV station KETV, that “folks in Nebraska like all across the country aren’t going to say to themselves, ‘We’ll take a few thousand jobs if it means our kids are potentially drinking water that would damage their health.' We don’t want, for example, aquifers to be adversely affected. Folks in Nebraska obviously would be directly impacted.”

In December, House Republicans inserted in a bill extending the payroll tax cut, a priority of the president’s, a requirement that the president officially make a decision on the pipeline within two months. The president did so in January, rejecting the project because of the “rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans” which he said “prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment.”

Republicans have seized on the issue as an example of the president putting the environment ahead of jobs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio