PAWS animal shelter settles lawsuit with former employee; settlement confidential

Tom McLaughlin
Northwest Florida Daily News

FORT WALTON BEACH — A lawsuit alleging financial malfeasance filed last year against the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society has been settled.

The settlement between PAWS and former agency employee Manda Moore was reached during a mediation session Friday. PAWS Executive Director Tracey Williams said the terms of the settlement are confidential. 

More:PAWS confiscates 77 severely neglected animals from Laurel Hill 'rescue' facility

Also: PAWS lawsuit involving former employee in a whistleblower capacity heads to mediation

"I am unable to comment further," she said in a text message.

Moore served as PAWS' community development director until September 2019, when she was fired, according to the lawsuit, for coming forward in a whistleblower capacity to speak out against fiscal mismanagement.

"Ms. Moore voiced objections to activities she believed to be violations of the law, rule or regulation," the lawsuit, filed Aug. 21, 2020, stated.

It claimed former PAWS Director Dee Thompson misused and misapplied PAWS money and made false statements in order to obtain or retain grant money.

More:PAWS shelter 'not a boarding facility or dumping ground,' works to reduce its population

Thompson resigned unexpectedly in February, citing "personal reasons."

The lawsuit also claims members of the PAWS governing board turned hostile toward Moore when she attended a board meeting and objected to their "using restricted funds for a purpose other than what the funds were supposed to be used." 

Williams was hired in June 2020 and has promised to drastically change the way PAWS conducts business. The agency serves both animal control and animal shelter functions for Okaloosa County.

Moore's attorney, Russell Van Sickle, did not respond to a request for comment.