Ex-donor sues embattled Forks dog sanctuary over her $50,000 donation

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES –– A former donor has filed suit against Steve Markwell’s embattled Olympic Animal Sanctuary, claiming that a $50,000 donation to help build a new shelter for abused and vicious dogs was misused.

According to court filings, Markwell and Matthew Randazzo, then chairman of the Clallam County Democratic Party and vice president of the sanctuary’s board of directors, asked Sherie Maddox for a donation in June 2012 to build more space for the shelter’s stock of dangerous dogs.

Her suit, claiming breach of contract and misuse of a restricted donation, asks Clallam County Superior Court to order Markwell to repay the $50,000 with interest and to pay for her legal fees.

In 2004, Markwell moved to Forks and founded Olympic Animal Sanctuary as a rescue home for dogs that have bitten or attacked animals or people and are unable to live among them.

He last reported that 128 dogs are in his 4,000-square-foot pink warehouse at 1021 Russell Road.

Markwell, who said he has not yet seen Maddox’s lawsuit, said the donation was spent on food for the dogs and that it was not restricted to a new building.

“When Sherie Maddox made her donation, she said that she would prefer it be used to go toward building a new facility but that if we needed it for operating expenses to use it,” Markwell said.

“She repeatedly said we could use the money as we saw fit.”

Maddox did not return Peninsula Daily News phone calls requesting an interview.

Maddox in her suit claims that Markwell told her this past February that he was not able to purchase a new building as he had planned.

Markwell told the PDN in April that he had plans to move the sanctuary to 10 acres of land in rural Clallam County owned by Eileen Schmitz, owner and broker of Port Angeles-based JACE The Real Estate Co.

In her plea to the court, Maddox says Markwell asked her for another donation in April.

“Yeah, that’s true. I asked all my donors for more,” Markwell said.

The sanctuary has been under heavy criticism from pro-animal advocates and former shelter volunteers for most of the past year.

Protesters have been picketing the warehouse shelter since last week, with one arrested for violating a protection order issued to Markwell after they allegedly were hostile to his volunteer workers.

Maddox’s suit is the second filed in Clallam County Superior Court against Markwell in less than a month.

Seattle-based Animal Aid and Rescue Foundation filed suit in November, asking the court to order Markwell to return a red pit bull terrier mix named LeRoy.

A readiness hearing in that suit is set for Friday.

Markwell said he has not been served a notice of Maddox’s suit.

“I received an email from [attorney] Adam Karp, but I had trouble with the attachments, so I have not seen any of the paperwork,” Markwell said.

In his declaration that he served Markwell with a summons for the suit, investigator Mack A. Peterson with Carlsborg Investigation Services said he went to the Forks Coffee Shop to serve Markwell on Dec. 5.

After spotting him with another man, Peterson said he got up to serve Markwell, whom he recognized from a photo, who then walked out of the restaurant.

Peterson said he then tried to serve Markwell in the restaurant’s parking lot, but Markwell did not respond to his calls and walked in the coffee shop’s back door.

Peterson left the service papers at the back door, then picked them up and placed them under the windshield wiper of a Ford F-150 pickup truck in which he earlier had seen Markwell.

After speaking with Maddox’s attorney, Adam Karp of Bellingham, Peterson put the papers back at the coffee shop’s back door.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 11. 2013 6:42PM
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