Charles Karesh, a prominent philanthropist who spearheaded drives to stop dogs and cats from being euthanized and to find mentors for underprivileged children, has left the Charleston Animal Society's board after the nonprofit discovered $69,000 missing from its accounts.
In a statement today, the group said the Charleston Animal Society cashed checks that were returned because of insufficient funds. The checks were written over the past four years, said Barbara Eggers, president of the society's executive committee.
A SunTrust bank employee discovered the checks Sept. 24 and contacted the Animal Society's associate director, Marc Edwards, who informed the group's board. Eggers said that the board's committee met with Karesh about the issue Sept. 27, and that he resigned three days later.
Board members were devastated and angry, she said.
Karesh had long been one of the group's most active and effective leaders, pushing hard for a new $11.2 million shelter on Remount Road. Last March, he was elected president of the group's executive committee, an unpaid position.
"Without Charlie, that magnificent building wouldn't be there," she said. "I was personally heartbroken; others are angry and feel betrayed. The important thing is that we're very concerned about how all of this will affect our mission to protect animals."
Karesh could not be reached via email or his cell phone or at his office and home over the past four days.
The group's statement said the organization isn't focusing on "pressing criminal charges." In the meantime, the group has hired a new finance director and is poised to hire a new executive director early next year.
Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said that he's asked the State Law Enforcement Division to examine whether a criminal investigation is warranted. He decided to contact SLED because money from his department goes to the Animal Society for the county's animal control work.
Read more later at postandcourier.com and also in tomorrow's newspaper.