Healdsburg Animal Shelter directors have closed their meetings to the public and prohibited volunteers from talking freely to the news media, prompting complaints they are trying to avoid scrutiny and "muzzle" critics.
A number of volunteers and donors last week asked the City Council for help in lifting what some described as a "veil of secrecy" at the nonprofit organization.
They also are asking for an accounting of more than $3 million spent on a new, partially built shelter and how much more is needed to complete it.
The growing complaints have prompted the City Council to request a public meeting with shelter directors and to obtain a report on their operations and finances.
Mayor Gary Plass said the shelter's board of directors "are all good people" but suggested there is a need for more transparency.
"When you start closing the community off, they become suspicious. It's not healthy for the community, or the organization," Plass said.
"You have an organization that really exists for the community and they take money from people — private citizens and donors — yet they are closing their meetings to the very same citizens," said Councilwoman Susan Jones.
Longtime shelter President Kathleen McCaffrey declined to be interviewed.
In response to email questions, she wrote "best business practices dictate that the public not participate in official board meetings" unlike in the past because it provides for "greater efficiency."
Last week, eight speakers voiced their concerns to the City Council regarding the direction of the shelter.