Broward News

Kay-Lynette Roca, Ousted Head of Safe Harbor Animal Shelter, Sues Former Board

When Kay-Lynette Roca's 28-year run at the Safe Harbor Animal Shelter came to an end in early 2013, she didn't go quietly. The longtime animal lover claimed she was booted for no reason by a three-person board anchored by a high-ranking Palm Beach County Sheriff's employee. But when Roca called foul on her termination, she ended up the target of a police investigation into fraud. Now, more than a year later, with no charges filed, Roca has hit back with her own lawsuit this week.

Roca had been executive director of the Jupiter no-kill shelter up until January 2013. Then, a new board fired the Safe Harbor head with little reason. According to Roca, calling the shots on the termination was Carol Verdigi, a special event coordinator with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

A month later, Jupiter Police knocked on Roca's front door in Tequesta with a search warrant. She was under investigation for how she'd handled the shelter's funds.

"They questioned my management of money," Roca told WPTV in January 2013. "I would never, ever take as much as a can of cat food from Safe Harbor."

After more than a year, no charges have been filed against Roca. Instead, Safe Harbor is now defunct, replaced with a new organization, Furry Friends Adoption and Clinic, operating with a new board.

But even though Safe Harbor is no more, the issue is far from over. This week, according to the Palm Beach Post, Roca filed a lawsuit that lays out the conspiracy that led to her departure.

The lawsuit targets Verdigi, the other members of the board who fired Roca, the current head of Safe Harbor's replacement, PBSO, and the Jupiter and Tequesta police departments. It lays out the kind of convoluted stranger-than-fiction intrigue that makes perfect sense in a South Florida animal shelter.

Charging the defendants were involved in "civil racketeering," the suit claims Safe Harbor's board, hoping to get a $2 million bequest, ousted Roca and used police contacts to force an investigation in order to discredit the former Safe Harbor head.

Roca obviously isn't going to back down anytime soon. "My goal is to take my organization back," she said at a news conference last April. "It was my vision, it was my dream, it was my mission statement. And it was stolen from me."

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Kyle Swenson
Contact: Kyle Swenson